Danie Mellor and his winning From Rite to Ritual.
Secret world of two cultures wins Art prize
By MARK BOUSEN from Darwin
The virtually closed world of Freemasonry has been a focal point of this year’s winning entry in the 26th Annual Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Award for his work From Rite to Ritual.
Canberra-based artist Danie Mellor took out the $40,000 first prize, announced in Darwin at a gala function last Friday night.
Measuring 2.07m x 1.54m, the mixed media on paper artwork features intricate layers of imagery with Aboriginal people and Indigenous animals placed against a setting that is littered with elements of European culture.
From Rite to Ritual
In this case, the meeting place is the interior of a Freemason’s lodge and the work highlights the importance of secret and public ceremony and initiation in both cultures; it speaks of the challenges of settlement; and the differences in spiritual enactment and belief.
Danie told the Torres News the drawing of the detail inside a Lodge came from an 18th-19th century engraving of a European Free Masons’ Lodge.
He said he had been inside a Freemason’s Temple, but had not discussed the meanings or significance of the Craft with a Freemason.
The work is very detailed and accurately depicts many of the inner-workings of a Lodge Temple.
“I understand what it means, but it is one thing to understand it but another to explain it.
“The work looks at the structure of the institution and the special and secret hidden nature of different cultures – in this case, Indigenous culture in Australia and the Freemasonry movement in Europe.
“There are similarities in that there are initiation ceremonies in both cultures; and those ceremonies are secret in both cultures.
“Rite Ritual is a portrayal of people, and the different ways and feelings of old cultural differences.”
Danie said the work took about three weeks, working 12 to 14 hours a day.
“This picture was almost waiting to happen. Any work takes years of research and preparation and then an artists decides to do it – and it can happen very quickly.”
He says he now has a deeper understanding of the craft of Freemasonry than when he started the project.
“The painting recognises the spread of different civilisations and that is often achieved by architecture, and the different ways of building as opposed to Indigenous culture.”
The $4000 Telstra General Painting Award was awarded to Yinarupa Nangala from Kiwirrkurra in Western Australia for her untitled work.
The $4000 Telstra Bark Painting Award was awarded to Rerrkirrwanga Munungurr from Wandawuy (East Arnhem Land) Northern Territory for her work Gumatj Gurtha.
The $4000 Telstra Works on Paper was awarded to Glen Namundja from Gubalanya (Western Arnhem Land) Northern Territory for his work Likkanaya and Marrayka.
The $4000 Wandjuk Marika Three-Dimensional Memorial Award was awarded to Janine McAullay Bott from Perth for her work Dhalkatj – Bilby.
* Mark Bousen is a former Freemason.
Photo: Vibe Blog http://www.vibeblog.com