Danie Mellor’s first solo exhibition at Tolarno Galleries, The Landspace: [all the debils are here], consists of a new sequence of works that reimagines the landscape as the landspace, and in doing so opens up a new way of seeing history, ownership and possession of country.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Landstory, 2018, a monumental nine-panel photographic work. The blueprint for this piece is Sidney Nolan’s nine-panel work Riverbend, 1964, which explored his preoccupation with landscape, mythology and history.

Landstory subtly combines Mellor’s own recent photography of rainforest country – using an infrared photographic technique to reveal a light spectrum unseen by the human eye – with archival imagery from the same area, including that of late-colonial photographer Alfred Atkinson, active in the Cairns region of northern Queensland.

It suggests something beyond ordinary experience, evoking an ancestral presence. The work creates a collapse in time – merging multiple strands of history, past and present – bringing to the surface the continuing presence of Aboriginal people, of a timeless landstory.

In 2013, Professor Marcia Langton curated Debil Debil at Carriageworks in Sydney, a group exhibition that included Mellor’s major nine-panel work Bayi Minyjirral, recalling funerary ceremonies of rainforest people. Mellor’s new exhibition evolves ideas explored in Langton’s show, as well as appropriating a key line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest: “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here.”

In Mellor’s The Landspace: [all the debils are here], the borrowed passage subverts and then realigns its cultural implications – we know this is not Hell, although it may have seemed it to early colonists, and it is not empty, as it was so declared.

The ancestors, our debils, are always here.