Arone Meeks tribute vessel by Zane Saunders and bonemap

Arone Meeks Memorial

funerary objects and performance

Tanks Arts Centre and CIAF Online 2021

Arone Raymond Meeks 1957 - 2021

Arone is a significant Australian Aboriginal artist who grew up in Far North Queensland before relocating to Sydney to attend art school. In the 1980's Meeks became proactive in founding Boomali, the Sydney based Indigenous Artist Collective, the first of its kind. On his return to Far North Queensland, he inspired generations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. By initiating groundbreaking activities, he demonstrated the value and viability of Contemporary Indigenous Art in the region. These efforts foreshadowed an industry that would flourish and highlight the incredible output of Indigenous artists across the Cape York Peninsula and the Torres Strait. In addition, his participation created a dialogue between Indigenous and non-indigenous communities. Activities with lasting impact include the Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair, for which he was a Board Member.

Arone received prestigious fellowships, including the first Indigenous Australian Residency at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris; this allowed international travel and networks to thrive. However, despite his renown, Arone chose to settle close to the Country where he grew up with his traditionally initiated grandfather. He spent time with remote Indigenous communities and supported their cultural expression for many decades. Reciprocating his connection to Culture provided an identity and belonging embedded in an Indigenous social foundation. His name 'Arone', which means Crane, was given by one of Australia's most celebrated Indigenous artists Dr Thancoupie Gloria Fletcher AO (1937-2011), an Australian sculptural artist, educator, linguist and elder of the Thainakuith people in Weipa. To Arone, Thancoupie was 'Athoy' (spiritual mother). Arone's Indigenous kinship links are with the Kuku Midiji of Cape York Peninsula, around the township of Laura. The site of magnificent rock art galleries filled with drawings of spirit beings called quinkans, Arone had said it is a place of Aboriginal magic and sorcery. Being on Country had a visceral effect, and Arone felt a physical reaction that helped him embody sacred Country and forge a sense of self through 'renewing the dreaming'. However, Arone never considered his art governed by the same lore and protocols associated with traditional Aboriginal visual Culture. Instead, he positioned himself in the context of contemporary urban expression. Within proximity to traditional tribal lands, he inhabited a reconstructed world, saying, "I am hunting for lost pieces of myself." It was a process where imagination came from within, and the potential for visual narrative was an inexhaustible source. For Arone, the processes of art making were an excellent therapy for defining the self's existential role.

Arone worked intuitively with a natural flair for drawing, through which he was able to express a unique spiritual response to Country. Bridging disparate worlds through the harmony sourced in nature, he represented traditional cultural responsibility within an expression of contemporary art. Arone produced paintings, sculptures and prints that express a passion for Country, spirituality, sexuality and identity politics. His path reconnected to place and identity through the actualisation of his spirit world. Arone's practice intuitively shifted the definition of traditional cultural identity. He connected to dreams and experiences that touched him emotionally. Although sexuality had a strong influence that he conceptualised as a part of the human matrix within his art, he also advocated for and undertook employment within Indigenous sexual health services.

We find humanity in the residual gesture of his marks. His art objects became his children, sent off into the world, and as children, the finished artefacts may take time to reveal their full consequences to us. As a prolific artist, Arone produced visual artwork that is colourful, sensual and full of complex narrative storylines.

Russell Milledge May 2021

artists:
Bonemap - Rebecca Youdell and Russell Milledge
Zane Saunders

acknowledgement:
Arone Raymond Meeks Estate: Geof Dixon
tribute vessel photography: Michael Marzik

sponsors:
Cairns Regional Council, Cairns Indigenous Arts Fair


Video documentation:

Arone Meeks tribute vessel by Zane Saunders and bonemap