May 2019

Treasure Island

The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail The Blackmail Text: Vissukamma Ratsaphong Images: Daniel Boyd

I first met Daniel Boyd at the Canberra School of Art around 2002, I was in the photomedia department, he was in painting. We somehow got talking at one of the gallery openings at school and he mentioned he’d just moved down from Cairns. The week prior to us meeting he’d gone to an NBL game in Canberra and had won the opportunity to take a shot from the courts halfway line. Now, seeing that Dan was actually a rather talented point guard (who had played for the Cairns Taipans), he was able to nail the challenge, and win himself a pallet of beer. It was from this pallet that our friendship began.

Fast forward to 2005 and Dan has started his now infamous Captain Cook series, one where he reworks historical portraits from another perspective, showing Captain James Cook and King George III as pirates with eyepatches and birds on their shoulders, instead of the explorers and leaders that their original portraits would have had us believe. A map of Australia shown pre-colonisation, the land broken up as regions in relations to Aboriginal tribes, as opposed to colonised states, and the words “Treasure Island” are painted on top, Boyd exhibiting a dark humour in relation to colonisation and Imperialism.

It was with this series that he exhibited his first solo show in 2005, picking himself up a gallerist before finishing is visual arts degree, and managed to sell out the entire collection. The Treasure Island piece was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia, I believe Dan was 23 at the time, which would most likely make him one of the youngest artists acquired by a national collection.

His work still revolves around the same issues that his first major series did, all with the same amount of black humour. His latest major series Freetown, explores how the same Imperialistic forces had effect on another region other than Australia, that being Africa. Working on the ideas of displacement and slavery, Boyd illustrates these concepts using the metaphor of animals in the wild, in an ‘imposed, rather than chosen’ freedom.

Now 28, Daniel is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, and Uplands Gallery in Melbourne, his work has been collected by more national institutions since, as well as by many private buyers. He has recently also won a commission in Brisbane to produce a public artwork in the Botanic Gardens

Vissukamma Ratsaphong: You spent most of your formative years on basketball courts, what was it that drew you to painting?

Daniel Boyd: I always had a passion for art and when i had the chance to leave Cairns i jumped at it! Cairns is a beautiful place but not so stimulating, also I knew I wasn’t going to play in the League I was too short for my position.

VR: Painting is definitely your main practice, although you have done some installation work in the past, do you see yourself making more work away from painting in the future?

DB: Yeah i’m always working on different things. depending on the idea whatever discipline suits i’ll go with.
I bought some clay the other day.

VR: For some sculptural stuff?

DB: Yeah but that’s all I’m going to say.

VR: (Laughs)

DB: It could be anything you’ll just have to come to my show.

VR: Are you just going to recreate the famous scene in Ghost, like as a homage to Patrick Swayze?

DB: (Laughs) Maybe.

VR: Tell me a little bit about the flowers series?

DB: The title of the series is Shame, it’s basically about different perspectives on the iconography of the red rose. British and their associations to the rose is subverted through the use of the title Shame which comes the story of Adam and Eve. It’s said that the rose blushed with shame when eve was expelled from the Garden Of Eden. It’s kind of comment on the social history of Australia.

VR: Australia’s social history forms the basis of most of your work, and now with your Freetown series you’re also looking at the effects on other regions affected by Imperialism, is it your intention to continue this research and practice into other regions outside of Australia?

DB: Yeah I’ll see how things go. I’m working through ideas relating to Imperialism in a global context to gain a better understanding of its processes and outcomes.

VR: What’s the public artwork commission that you’re working on at the moment?

DB: There’s a park in Kangaroo Point, Brisbane and I’m working on these artworks that are about the sun. It is the Sunshine State!

VR: What materials are you using?

DB: I’m using gold in the artworks, which is cool. There’s seven screens that cover a path and they have designs of the sun cut out of them that cast images on the ground, it’s about the trajectory of the sun through the seasons. My ancestors are from Brisbane and I wanted to also create a connection between us, the sun was something that we both experienced in that same location only 150 years apart.

VR: How are you finding dealing with the bureaucracy of publicly commissioned artworks? Does the process stifle creativity, or have you found a happy medium in dealing with logistics?

DB: It’s such a pain dealing with bureaucracy! but it’s good to have the opportunity to work on that scale, it’s been an amazing experience! different process but now I feel like Jeff Koons or Murakami with their fabricated artworks!

Daniel Boyd

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