Tucked away underneath UC Lodge in the shade sits a bright blue table tennis table, hand-painted with a unique Indigenous design by contemporary Aboriginal artist Danielle Mate-Sullivan.
It is a recent addition to the University’s Bruce campus, and for those who may not be familiar, Aboriginal art is rich in symbolism and story-telling. Every shape has a meaning, representing the overall story.
“The design represents a Journey Line. It is a symbol that talks about a mob moving from one place to another and stopping at the circles, which are often a campsite,” Danielle tells UnCover about the design painted in early 2019.
“The U shapes represent people. The overall design speaks about the journey that students are on, different paths and people along the way.”
Danielle’s upbringing in an urban society, with Aboriginal heritage on her mum’s side, Murrawari, and German heritage on her dad’s side, is reflected in her contemporary style of art.
For this artwork, Danielle was able to reflect a more ‘modern vibe’, best suited to the environment and the people of the University of Canberra, with the design using a traditional symbol in a contemporary way. She also consulted with a local Ngunnawal Elder .
With such a multicultural student cohort, seeing the table design may be the first time students, particularly international students, have been exposed to Indigenous art.
“Aboriginal art comes in all different forms. I think people often have a very narrow view on 'what' Aboriginal art is, but in fact it is so much more diverse,” Danielle adds.
“I heard someone say this many years ago ‘Aboriginal art is any art that is created by an Aboriginal person’.”
As with all her artworks, the process behind the table tennis table took time, with Danielle enlisting the services of her husband Shane to help prepare the table.
“I start with images of the surface to paint, keeping in mind its size, scale and view point,” Danielle shares.
“I did a concept design in A3 size, showing the idea of wrapping the design down the sides and the colour pallet etc. then transferred this with pencil onto the surface, which had a strict preparation, and the rest was all hand painted and sealed.”
It seems UC is in good company when it comes to the privilege of having a piece of Danielle’s art on campus, with the artist’s work featured in the private collection of Barack Obama and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as being featured on the US Embassy’s Collectable Coin.
To find out more about Danielle and her artworks, visit: http://www.daniellematesullivan.com.au/