Every once in a while you will visit an exhibition that excites as much as it overpowers you.
The retrospective from the last twelve years of Danie Mellor's work presented at the UQ Art Museum is comprehensive and very satisfying. From the outset, you sense that you are in the hands of a master creator of art. The exhibition, entitled Exotic Ties, Sacred Lies, encompasses sculpture, installation, drawing as well as printmaking.
There are numerous drawings of colonial and imperial scenarios painted in blue and white, reminiscent of the types of china plates that were produced by Willowware and Minton that often featured in colonial homesteads and imperial settings. It's a clear signal of the artists intent to examine cultural appropriation. Tea stains appear on the images, another example of borrowing or, could you contemplate the notion of stealing, from other cultures.
Other works could easily be imagined as taking their inspiration from the iconography of postage stamps; large central images of animals such as kangaroos resting with their arms on their chests with cursive scrolling text of the Lords Prayer surrounding them.
In stark contrast to the use of blue, Indigenous Australian's feature in nearly all of the paintings in in full detailed colour. Their presence sets up an immediate opposition and outsiderness, a restlessness and an uneasiness in the gaze of the people represented in the pictures.
All of the 'blue' works are framed with elaborate gold frames, further solidifying these representations of dominance over environment, power and wealth ideals.
My absolute favourite work from the exhibition was a monumental steel sculptural kangaroo, its lips pursed and scarred, its eyes emboldened, its ears and its tail removed partly. It rests on a plinth of carved steel layers, symbolic of a tree that has been cut down, its eyes are mournful and powerful at the same time. The work itself is split down one side and you really feel the pain that this animal is suffering as you see it still standing proud and unwilling to be knocked down again. It's bold, it's big and it's absolutely beautiful.
The installations are something altogether different, but drawn from the same bow. They are so much fun to engage with. Often you are led to start guessing what the strange symbols, letters and objects could possibly mean and sometimes they are as plain as day. I really enjoyed the pace of this exhibition and when I had walked through it once, I couldn't wait to get back to the start and do it all again. Now how often does that happen?