Collector's love: Danie Mellor - Art Collector

Issue 67, January - March 2014

This profile appeared in the Collectors Love feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2014.

Danie Mellor, The Sanctuary (savage legends of life in the rainforest), 2013, detail, mixed media on paper, 80 x 153cm. Courtesy: the artist, Jan Murphy Gallery and Sophie Gannon Gallery, Melbourne

Danie Mellor’s audience is growing. In September 2013, as he was attending the opening of the landscape survey Australia at the Royal Academy in London - which includes his Elysian City (of Picturesque Landscapes and Memory) - his work was a sell-out success at the 2013 Sydney Contemporary Art Fair.

This critical and commercial success - nationally and internationally - has been affirming. His Brisbane dealer Jan Murphy notes, “His academic practice stands behind all that he produces. It is an application of his own history and culture”. The appeal for audiences, she believes lies in “…the beauty in the items that he makes and the critical acclaim that stands behind them. Academics look at his work and read it on a deeper level.”

At Sydney Contemporary, Murphy showed the works in association with Mellor’s Melbourne dealer Sophie Gannon. She told
Art Collector, “We made the decision not to pre-sell Mellor’s works, although those who had expressed interest were sent images. People lined up outside, and then there was a sprint from the doors!” It is an enviable situation for an artist with works priced from $6,000-$44,000 AUD. As Murphy also noted, “These works are incredibly time-consuming to produce and Danie is not interested in over-production."

Other exhibitions outside Australia to feature his work last year include
Sakahàn: 1st international quinquennial of new Indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada and, in 2014, Murphy will present a solo exhibition of Mellor at Art Basel Hong Kong. This year a major Australian survey exhibition opens at University Queensland Art Museum in January. Titled Danie Mellor: Exotic Lies, Sacred Ties, it will travel to Melbourne and Darwin and considers, in depth, Mellor’s contribution to engagement with Australia’s shared Indigenous and non-Indigenous histories.

In a departure from the exquisite detail for which he is best-known (a borrowed aesthetic from British blue and white Spode china), new sculpture for the UQ Art Museum survey has a “less embellished” aesthetic, whilst retaining his thematic interests in Australia’s colonial history. Mellor noted, “I am interested in the detail in nature, how you can link a clarity of vision to ideas belonging to a particular space and environment.” A new kangaroo sculpture in bronze and chrome will see Mellor’s more simplified and refined explorations on a larger scale.

Mellor spent significant time as a child with his grandmother in the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland, but currently lives and works in New South Wales. Yet he noted, “There is an element of the rainforest in everything I do“. His unique approach to his own Indigenous and non-Indigenous history adds a significant individual aesthetic to a poignant, spiritual and humorous slant on Australian history.

Louise Martin-Chew

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