Captain Cook, 2005
oil on canvas board
Mori Gallery, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney
Image courtesy of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney and the artist
Daniel Boyd engages with the tradition of history painting, reinterpreting archival sources, historical situations and events to reimagine the history of British colonialism and Indigenous dispossession. Recently he has come to work more with abstract modes of painting, drawing on Indigenous mark-making techniques and 'over-painting' to obscure and re-purpose images – all part of his broader objective to explore the fragmented nature of history and memory.
Since first exhibiting in 2005, Boyd became known for his appropriations of British colonial and imperial portraits of figures like James Cook and George III, overlaying them with the accoutrements of piracy and plunder – eye patches, skull necklaces and parrots. The works each had the words “no beard” beneath them, a reference to early accounts that Aboriginal Australians thought the British were women as they shaved off their facial hair. From around 2012, Boyd integrated particle theory into his works, introducing the dot into his reconstructions of historical photographs as both a reference to certain Indigenous Australian art cultures as well as to the broader pointillist movement of the late-nineteenth century.
A Kudjla/Gangalu man from Cairns, Boyd’s art has always been interested in the colonial gaze and challenging the expectations contemporary, non-Indigenous audiences have when presented Indigenous experiences. As curator and writer Michael Do wrote ahead of Boyd’s 2020 exhibition AND THE HORIZON SWALLOWED THE TORTOISE, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney: “In creating spaces for questions and dialogue in art, Boyd places the Aboriginal experience closer towards the centre of contemporary Australian art, drawing attention to the potency of Indigenous practitioners working today. However, the final push towards a more encompassing set of cultural relations and concepts of reconciliation lies with us: as readers, as consumers, as influencers, as collectors and as people capable of tangible action. It is time to question what has, and is, happening around us, and what this might mean. This is the power of Daniel Boyd.” (Michael Do, "Daniel Boyd: Into Focus," Art Collector, 2020.)
In 2012 the Natural History Museum, London exhibited Up In Smoke Tour, a major body of work produced by Boyd in response to the Museum's anthropological collection. Boyd’s work has featured in numerous biennales and festivals, including All the World’s Futures, 56th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2015). He received the Bulgari Art Award, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2014). In 2018, Boyd was commissioned by the Australian War Memorial to create For our country, a memorial to commemorate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicepeople, and from 2019 he collaborated with Sir David Adjaye on a major work for Lendlease’s developments at Circular Quay, Sydney.