Arone Meeks (1957 – 2021)
Tribal Group: KuKu Mi diji
Language Group: KuKu Yalanji
Arone Meeks was born in Sydney in 1957, but grew up in Cairns. Meeks was as a founding artist of the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-operative founded in 1987 in Sydney and initiated the annual NAIDOC exhibition at the Tanks Art Centre in Cairns. Meeks has been a prominent cultural anchor in the region of Tropical North Queensland for many years, he has left an extraordinary artistic legacy and led an impressive life of social commitment in numerous areas such as teaching, health, and First Nations issues, all of which informed the breadth and depth of his art practice.
The Directors of Onespace Gallery, John Stafford and Jodie Cox, and our staff acknowledge the recent passing of this amazingly influential artist, and would like to recognise that this exhibition is a selection of recent works rather than a survey of Arone’s substantial practice. Evidence will now be just one of many gestures to recognise and celebrate the lasting influence of the inspirational Arone Meeks.
Evidence is punctuated by an intense ultramarine blue, Arone’s signature colour. This selection of works draws as much on his heritage and narratives as a Kuku Midiji man from Cape York in Tropical North Queensland, as his personal quest for discovery. Evidence includes some earlier signature linoprints leading up to more recent unique state screenprints, a significant lithograph and a major painting, following a period of research delving into a piece of his heritage that he was previously unaware of, “a missing link exposing challenging parallels regarding European ‘discoveries’ of Indigenous lands and cultures.” (Arone Meeks, 2021)
From his early art training and considerable domestic and international success in Europe and the USA, from the 1980’s onwards, Meeks continued exploring, and often confronting contemporary issues facing an ancient culture ‘head on’. A bridging point between his past work and his most recent was the discovery that his great grandfather was the renowned English ornithologist/entomologist, Albert Meek. One of Albert’s discoveries was the blue-green Queen Alexander Birdwing Butterfly, the largest butterfly in the world. The butterfly’s vibrant colours rekindled Arone’s quest to discover his own ‘Arone Meeks blue’ – an idea seeded by Matisse, Yves Klein, Tiffany and the many others who had a blue colour named after them.