It was probably accidental that Daniel Boyd’s Pineapples in the Pacific opened around the same date that the nation zealously celebrated the arrival of white colonisers in Australia.
Boyd is an astute appropriator of Anglo-Australian historicism. His work expertly presents a complex set of visual puns that challenge Eurocentric rationalism and biased depictions of Australian history, debunking the heroic mythologies associated with British Imperial icons. In 2005, Boyd found international recognition with his Captain Cook series, in which archival portrayals of Cook and Admiral Arthur Phillip (the naval officer appointed governor of the first European settlement in Australia) are pirates and plunderers, with medals swapped for parrot and an eye patch.
In his new show, Boyd once again contests the romanticism associated with faraway lands and the exotic Other, but this time elsewhere in the Pacific. A tropical paradise of opulent greens and sparkling blues emerges through a lush overgrowth, suggesting the ‘discovery’ of a new world. Directly opposing is an image of two Europeans en-route to the Pacific Islands, tropical fruits overhead. Separately, a young woman reminiscent of Gauguin’s fetishised Tahitian muse looks stoically at the viewer. Boyd’s textured images, created with mercury-like droplets of archival glue, are subtle, blurred representations of these familiar images that ask the viewer to consider his or her own perception.
The scenes portray Pentecost Island, Vanuatu – the birthplace of the artist’s paternal great great-grandfather. Boyd is thus touching both on his own ancestry and the enduring, subjective language of Western art history.
Daniel Boyd’s paintings are held by most major art galleries in the country. Most recently, he developed a major visual installation called 100 Million Nights in collaboration with Canyons – which was part of Sydney Festival.
See Pineapples in the Pacific until February 8.