Tag Archives: Danie Mellor

November verse 15: An initial response to a work by Danie Mellor

November verse 15: An initial response to
Danie Mellor's A time of the world's making
Born on stolen Mamu Country
where the Johnstone River flows
(Robert Johnstone brought the guns, ey?),
where the cash crop sugar grows,
I loved that place, its rich volcanic
soil, the heat, and the titanic
rainfall – the rainforest too.
The place was old, and I was new.
I didn't hear its age-old stories.
Now tiny men, ropes, floating shell,
and women with their pile of skulls –
in crayon-blue, no dark green glory –
all alive, a dream unfurled:
is now a time to make the world?

Danie Mellor’s stunning work, A time of the world’s making, 2019, features in Real Worlds: Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial 2020 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (next door to the huge Arthur Streeton exhibition on the same floor, and a floor below the Archibald).

Here’s a video walk-through of the Dobell with curator Ann Ryan. She talks about Danie Mellor’s two ‘landspaces’ from 11:16 to 12:58:

Arty sunny afternoon

Confounding the predictions, yesterday gave us deep blue skies all day. Two loads of washing dried on the line, the goldfish glowed in the murk of our little pond, and P and I took the light rail to Pyrmont and walked to the MCA.

There was a charge for Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson on the third floor, and a friend had been pretty lukewarm about him, so we decided to save our money (unusual for this time of year, I know) and visit it some other day. But the first, second and fourth floors fabulous enough.

The first and second are exhibiting a recent gift from Ann Lewis, an art collector so famous that even I had heard of her. It was wonderful to see shimmering works by Utopian ladies Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Gloria Petyarre, among other Aboriginal artists, displayed in the company of US big names Rauschenberg and Klippel  – Gloria Petyarre’s canvas filled with shimmering silver leaves is the single image that most grabbed me. There’s a little room of lovely photographs by Jon Lewis. Any relation? Well, yes, if the handwritten ‘For Annie (Grannie)’ written in the bottom border of one image means what it appears to.

Half of the fourth floor is given over to Forbidden, ‘the first in-depth solo exhibition’ of Fiona Foley’s work . Now, I am often impressed, bemused, amused or depressed by contemporary art, but I don’t often have a strong head-and-heart response. I did have to this exhibition. For example, the word Dispersal in big, chunky shiny aluminium letters, of which the initial D bristles with .303 bullets is a lot more than a clever reminder of the hideous use of that word in our colonial history. It stands next to a spiral of flour about three metres across, that needs constant attention from an attendant to maintain its crisp shape; the flour turns out to be part of an installation ‘Land Deal’, in which other objects representing those John Batman used to ‘buy’ the land where Melbourne was built hang on the wall. Nearby hangs a row of blankets, each inscribed with a single word, that conjure the experiences of Aboriginal women under colonialism. Elsewhere Foley places herself in photographs with titles like ‘Native Blood’ and ‘Modern Nomad’, that refer strongly to nineteenth century anthropological images. Evidently, earlier exhibitions have had titles like ‘Lick my black art’. Ok, lick it and weep.

The rest of the floor showcases new acquisitions. There’s a cute hologram that was popular with the very young (and others, including me), which could have been titled ‘Ghost Train’, but instead is called ‘You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally’. Danie Mellor made the cut with a sculpture that includes a shiny, mosaic kangaroo and a lifelike sulphur-crested cockatoo. I loved a video piece by Grant Stevens, in which an account of a dream is projected onto a wall in a way that controls the speed at which the viewer reads (or fails to read, because the pace picks up enormously in the middle).

Then we walked back to Pyrmont along the Hungry Mile, trying to figure out Paul Keating’s proposal for Barangaroo, and home to find the washing dry on the line.

White Rabbit and Menagerie

This afternoon we visited the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, and then went on to Object Gallery to see their part of the exhibition Menagerie.

The White Rabbit Gallery has been open for exactly three months. In a converted Chippendale warehouse, a couple of very rich Sydneyites have set up a space to share with the public their collection of contemporary Chinese art. Admission is free, and gallery staff members are on hand on all four floors to answer questions, point out things you might have missed, offer a word or two about the biography of the artist. From the meticulously shredded Mao suits of Sun Furong’s Tomb Figures, through the spectacular trompe-l’oeuil draughtsmanship of Ma Yanling’s four images of opera singers, to Chen Wen-Ling’s over-the-top sculptures (guaranteed to make a pig-lover smile, and maybe even a pig-hater) this gallery is fabulous. Thanks, Judith and Kerr Nielson.

Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture is, according to the Australian Museum web site, ‘a groundbreaking exhibition featuring animal sculptures by 33 established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’. Part of it is at the Museum, part at the Object Gallery up the hill (The site uses flash but irritating Flash: click on Explore on the side and you’ll get details of this exhibition). We’ve yet to visit the former. The latter occupies the single room of the Main Gallery, with a 20 minute video on six of the artists playing on a loop in the small upstairs space. It’s magic. I particularly loved ‘Red, White and Blue’ by Danie Mellor. This consists of three kangaroos, about a metre high, with front paws covering respectively mouth, eyes and ears. They’re made of mosaic tiles (respectively red-patterned, white and blue-patterned), except for their paws and ears, which are made of kangaroo skin, creating the impression that living animals have been encased in unyielding shells made from the detritus of settler society. They’re beautiful, poignant, and made by a man of Mamu heritage (I was born in Mamu country). I just googled Danie Mellor and found out that he won the Telstra Aboriginal Art Award this year, and that he had a solo exhibition at Elizabeth Bay that closed yesterday. I have terrible timing.

The White Rabbit exhibition stays up until January, when it is replaced by other contemporary Chinese works from Judith Nielson’s collection. Menagerie closes on 15 November.