2nd time at Curious Colony for me. This time bringing along the mrs and my son. The gallery had two talks on Sunday. The first was Scott Mitchell, the cabinet maker who crafted the Newcastle Chest. Danie Mellor, the artist behind a number of pieces in the show including the Natives Chest went second. It turns out both were at the School of Art at ANU down in Canberra in the early 90s when I was occasionally in attendance at the economics and political science faculties but seeing as how I didn't recognise them they mustn't have hung out with the cool crowd!!
Truth be told I was there to see Danie but I found Scott's talk really interesting. I feel there is a much smaller chest to be commissioned in his future (by me). It was fascinating to hear how to keep the overall dimensions consistent with the Macquarie chest that he had to negotiate the spaces allocated to each artist. This meant bird artist Louise Weaver's had to go in lying down - she had wanted it standing up! He singled out Lionel Bawden as his top pick for artist of the chest. I agreed, but it was close with Louise Weaver and Esme Timbery.
Next up was Danie Mellor. He has a unique background being a contemporary indigenous artist who doesn't look at all indigenous. He is aboriginal on his mothers side (great grandmother or something like that) but brings out that play between aboriginal and white settler (the other part of his family) in his work. The first piece I didn't really even notice was his was a very large mezzotint of fern fronds. It turns out that creating these are very labour intensive so he doesn't do them anymore, note to the Newcastle art gallery - look after that one. The second piece he spoke about was one of my favourites. Called 'Dreaming beyond paradise (let sleeping giants lie)' this piece (image above) is looks to evoke blue and white china plates but includes realistic additions of Australian fauna. This is the same style as the piece that won him aboriginal artist of the year in 2009 (and $100k to boot). He had a very interesting explanation for this, actually for all his art a lot of thought goes into it, you could tell he had a PhD in Art. The kangaroo pops up a lot in his works and he says he has adopted it as one of his symbols (maybe because he is also a Big Red!) Obviously the back story was cranked up for the Natives Chest which was a really diverse diorama of taxidermy and installation. My son loved the birds, especially the big duck (emu). He also loved the Joan Ross video (just like my daughter the previous week) although my wife said this was because they were deprived of television at home rather than having similar taste in art.
So what did I notice second time round at the show? Well, I liked the colonial silver emu egg centrepieces. I really want one and just missed out at an auction last week on a beauty. This visit confirmed that the whole show really clicked with my aesthetics. I read somewhere a description of the show as "from the Colonial to the Contemporary world" and that accurately summarises the Big Lamington collection. A very mona style mishmash of everything.
Points - 3 to Danie Mellor, great talk and really interesting works. 2 to Scott Mitchell, and 1 to Lisa Slade (the curator behind the show).