Arts NSW talks to leading Australian artist Daniel Boyd

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (MLAB), 2015. Oil, charcoal and archival glue on polyester (168 x 213.5 cm). Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Daniel Boyd, Untitled (MLAB), 2015. Oil, charcoal and archival glue on polyester (168 x 213.5 cm). Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Aboriginal artist Daniel Boyd’s work satirically challenges the traditional history of Australian colonisation. Daniel takes artworks and iconography from the European perspective and reframes the work to express the Indigenous Australian experience.

We chat to Daniel about how he develops his work and some of his latest achievements.

Can you tell us a little about yourself..(your mob, growing up, inspiration)?

l was born in Cairns, Queensland, I lived there until I was 19. I moved to Canberra to study painting at the Australian National University. Both sides of my family came through the Anglican mission system at Yarrabah near Cairns. My inspiration comes from the people who lived and still live a life of oppression in their own country.

How did you first become interested in the arts?

Through drawing. I had a love for comic book art, the human form and representation of the human form. When I was at art school I became very interested in painting. Particularly 18th and 19th century English portraiture.

How has your Aboriginal culture informed and inspired your work/career?

My work is constantly connect to who I am as a human being, one who is of Aboriginal and South Sea Islander descent. Education has always been something that I placed at the centre of my questioning, questions that stem from trying to understand my place in society. How education plays a role in comprehension of our history and Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships.

Last year you were invited to exhibit in the headline international exhibition All the World’s Futures for the 56th Venice Biennale, you’ve recently completed a three month ISCP Residency in New York whereby you developed new work for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. This is an amazing track record for the last 12 months, what are you working towards now?  

We need to asses our cultural relationships with the rest of the world, being part of the record group of Australian participants in the 56th International Art Exhibition was an amazing achievement for this country. We also need to be honest about the image of our country we want people the rest of the world to see, for example being honest about the representation of our Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationship.

Creating career pathways for Aboriginal artists and cultural workers is a key focus of Stage Two of the NSW Aboriginal Arts and Cultural Strategy. Do you have any advice for emerging or mid-career Aboriginal artists who are considering a career as a visual artist? 

Hard work is the key. Support from arts organisations is also important, it can help you to engage in a dialogue that happens at arts events like biennales and to participate in residencies where you can expand your artistic community and knowledge.

What do you hope Australians will get out of NAIDOC week?

I hope Australians reflect on all the wonderful things Aboriginal people do and have done, you know we invented bread! I also hope with that knowledge they  reflect on the way we’ve been treated and that despite that we continue to innovate and grow.

In 2016, what are you most excited by?

Treaty Now!


Daniel Boyd is represented by Roslyn Oxely9 Gallery, Sydney, and Station Gallery, Melbourne. Daniel was recently supported by Arts NSW to participate in the 56th Venice Biennale’s All the World’s Futures in 2015 and to undertake a three month residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York City. 

To find out more about Daniel Boyd, please click here. To find out more about Arts NSW funding opportunities, please click here.

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