Installation view of Daniel Church’s <em>Pelican Mudjin (Family)</em> 2022 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Sean Fennessy

Daniel Church

Daniel Church
(Darug, b. 1980, Liverpool, New South Wales. Lives and works in Gippsland, Victoria)

Daniel Church was born on Darug Country in Liverpool, New South Wales, where his parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and ancestors were also born. Now based on Gunaikurnai Country in Gippsland, Victoria, his creative practice includes woodcarving, timber sculpting and painting – typically acrylic on canvas. He also creates wooden artworks, including full-size archways, timber birds, furniture pieces, shields and walking sticks.

Pelican Mudjin (Family), 2022, is an installation of carved pelicans representing mudjin (family), with each individual pelican representing wiyanga (mothers), biyangan (fathers), babana (brothers) and djuramin (sisters) along the south-east coast of Australia. Church describes the work as ‘one big mudjin, one big mob’, with the diamond motifs representing the connections between all Aboriginal peoples from the south-east coast, as well as his own Darug family.

For Church, carving is about sharing culture and passing down songlines through generations – in this case by transferring onto wood the images, symbols and stories he has witnessed carved on stone in Darug Country. A sculpture of his totem, the Brahminy kite, won the Lechte Corporation Acquisitive Award in 2021 and his sculpture Darug Archway was recently featured in The Torch’s Confined 12 exhibition. In his bird paintings and sculptures, Church conveys ‘on every feather how deep our culture flows through our hearts and souls’.