Heritage and New Artistic Horizons: We Interview NAIDOC 2020 Artist Luke Mallie

Last week we had the privilege of meeting up with talented artist Luke Mallie. We got to hear about his experience of working with Yarn, inspiration and latest work for our NAIDOC 2020 collection “Rainforest Warrior.”

Luke is a proud Kuku Yalanji and Kubin Village man. He grew up here in Brisbane, however his heritage is from North Queensland. The Kuku Yalanji people are of the Daintree and Mossman area and Kubin Village is on Moa Island of the Torres Strait Islands.

How long have you been working with Yarn?

"At least 3 year now…. It’s been a good relationship; I like doing the paintings and they’re in a position where they can spread my artwork around. Provide colourful clothing to people all around Australia that want to represent Indigenous artwork.

I think my artwork is more contemporary which might appeal more to non-Indigenous customers as well as Indigenous customers."

What is your favourite project/artwork that you’ve done with us? What story does the artwork tell?

"Because of Her We Can because that was a popular one and I like the design as well on the black background.

It represented all of the women, the family and culture as well as mother nature. It incorporates everything, it tells the story that we are connected to nature as well. So, all the women have more connection and care, that’s the sort of balance that you need, with the men being warriors."

Let’s talk about your most recent artwork for our NAIDOC 2020 collection ‘Rainforest Warrior,’ how does ‘Rainforest Warrior’ relate to your heritage with the Kuku Yalanji people of the Daintree?

"It represents our ancestors that have been here for hundreds of thousands of years. It shows the mouth of the Daintree river in the background. That’s where my mother was born, so there is that family connection there as well."

What does this year’s NAIDOC theme “Always Was, Always Will Be” mean to you?

"It’s the oldest living culture in the world. So think of how long we’ve been in this country, having that connection to the land. That’s why I painted “Rainforest Warrior” because it is mum's connection and if I had another shirt I would do the Torres Straits which is Dad's country."

We know you’re very influenced by pop culture, animation and modern design, what has been inspiring you lately?

"I’ve been checking out drones and cinematography, so looking into that. Because I’ve viewed so many other videos on YouTube and all over the place, I think I’ve got a different perspective to how these other photographers work. More of an artist's viewpoint…..It’s quicker to get your product out there than painting. I’ll still keep painting but it’s a different perspective and way of looking at things."

What’s it like to see your artwork become clothing?

"Yeah I get a buzz out of it because you might be anywhere in Australia and you still see people wearing your artwork on their backs. I’ve been sent pictures from people in the Torres Straits and people in WA. People will send me emails with photographs of the whole city council staff; you know there’s probably like 45 people with my shirt on. It’s cool to see."

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

"Ronald McDonald house have asked me to design a wall mural, so two of those in 2 different houses in Brisbane. I design them in illustrator and send the design to the signwriters and they’ll lazer cut it out of Perspex…. One is an ocean scene and the other ones a rainforest scene. There will be LED lights behind it, they’ll come through Perspex which is translucent so there will be all of these bright colours. I’ll design more graphics to go over the front. It will be nice and bright for the kids."

You can find more of Luke’s incredible art on his Instagram.