Daniel Boyd is a descendant of the Kudjila and Gangalu people of central Queensland. His practice, which includes painting, installation and moving image, is informed by his culture. In his work to date, Boyd has investigated commonly held myths about the history of the occupation of Australia, which he examines through European traditions of portraiture. In a recent series, which includes Untitled (TBOMB) (pp. 78–9), he has turned the gaze inward, working with personal archival material such as photographs to position his own family at the centre of the conversation.

Untitled (TBOMB) is a large two-part painting based on a family photograph, which Boyd made during a return visit to see his mother on her Country at Yarrabah, south of Cairns. Boyd’s parents were part of the Stolen Generations and were forced to live on the mission at Yarrabah, established by the Anglican church missionary Ernest Gribble in 1893. In 2022, Yarrabah was where First Nations delegates came together to declare their commitment to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in what became known as the Yarrabah Affirmation.

The photograph from the family album is only small, whereas Boyd’s painting is enormous. The original image, taken before Boyd was born, shows a family picnic. The artist’s mother, father, aunties, siblings and cousins are all at this outdoor gathering. Balloons in the colours of the Aboriginal flag – red, yellow and black – hang from the trees.

The work also references and reinvents painting traditions in art history. To create the scene, Boyd has applied dots of glue across the canvas and then has painted over the dots. While this echoes the dotting often found in some Aboriginal art, the technique also recalls the method used by nineteenth- century pointillist painters to create an image by using dots of colour. The human eye and brain make sense of what they see, and indeed the mind constructs the scene even where there may be gaps. In Untitled (TBOMB), the dark background can remind us of the gaps in our personal and collective histories, while the dots act as lenses or portals that allow us to visualise our shared history through the familiarity of a scene recognisable to us all.

For more about 'The Dot' and Daniel Boyd see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in the Classroom Volume 2

Using works of art by Boyd and one other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artist, discuss how the artists have responded to the history of Aboriginal people’s rights and freedoms since 1950, such as the Wave Hill walk-off or the 1967 Referendum. Tip: Artists to consider might include Tony Albert, Richard Bell and Fiona Foley.

In Untitled (TBOMB), Boyd has worked from a family photograph, taken before he was born, of a picnic on the beach near where his family live. It is a birthday celebration filled with joy and hope. The artist’s mother, father, aunties, siblings and cousins are all at the picnic. Balloons in the colours of the Aboriginal flag – red, yellow and black – hang from the trees.

Ask your family about their favourite holiday destinations. Make them a special postcard based on what they tell you about this special place. Ask them to write a message on the back based on their memories or make new family memories by combining old and new photographs.

  • Look at photographs of your family before you were born. Who can you identify?
  • Make copies of photographs of yourself – these can be photocopies – and cut out your image.
  • Put yourself in the picture. Experiment with placement and then glue down the image of yourself in the family photograph.
  • Use watercolour or acrylic paint to hand-colour the image so that all of the parts are unified. If you are successful, it will look like a new photograph.
  • Display your new work of art in a prominent location in your house.