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  • Rainbow Serpent: The exhibition reframing Australia’s indigenous memory


Rainbow Serpent: The exhibition reframing Australia’s indigenous memory

Artist Daniel Boyd's upcoming exhibition at the Gropius Bau raises the curtain on Australia's traditional foundation narrative.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (TDHFTC), 2021. Painting, oil, acrylic, charcoal and archival glue on canvas, 130 x 189 cm. Private Collection (Jean Sook Chae), Photo: Chunho An, Photo provided by Kukje Gallery

The Western world has long celebrated the British colonisers of Australia as intrepid explorers. Daniel Boyd, the First Nations Australian artist who was taught these stories at school, sees them as murderous, looting marauders.

His paintings aim to reframe the visual narratives of his ancestors and indigenous Pacific peoples by intertwining the historical, mythological and the personal to create a myriad and less biased perspective on the foundational stories of his homeland.

Boyd wants to bring a multiplicity of voices to the museum

Later in March, 45 of those paintings will come to the Gropius Bau to be exhibited alongside a large-scale ground-floor installation, engulfing the atrium in a skin-like layer. Mirrored to reflect the architecture of the space, the installation will continue across the grand windows of the museum, allowing natural light to dictate how his paintings are perceived.

“Because the light constantly changes as the sun travels around the building, he relinquishes the control over which paintings will be illuminated,” says Carolin Köchling, the co-curator of the exhibition. “This is fundamental to his practice, constructing non-linear relationships between different geographies and times.”

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (PAITA), 2022, Oil and archival glue on canvas, 74 x 103 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

Using a wide range of visual source materials, from colonial era paintings by Joshua Reynolds to ethnographic images and personal family photographs, Boyd paints portraits and landscapes before overlaying the surface with dots of archival glue. Painting around those dots, Boyd covers the traditional narratives until only the dots remain – leaving the rest as a metaphor for Australia’s omitted foundation stories.

This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Europe and continues Gropius Bau’s programme of featuring work by artists from a non-Western background. “What fascinates me about the exhibition is how he will be looking at the Gropius Bau and its Neo-Renaissance style and using it as a starting point to investigate European imperial expansion,” says Köchling. The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events, talks and performances. “Boyd wants to bring a multiplicity of voices to the museum,” says Köchling. “He’s looking hard at finding ways not to control the space but to listen to it.”

  • 23.03.23 – 09.07.23
  • Rainbow Serpent at Gropius Bau, Niederkirchnerstr. 7, Kreuzberg, details.