Darryl Bellotti - Indigenous Coin Designer

Darryl Bellotti - Indigenous Coin Designer

Much of the inspiration for Darryl Bellotti's stunning artistic creations comes from traditional Aboriginal art. Yet there is a contemporary, innovative feel to his work that stamps it with his own unique style. “You will identify it as Australian Indigenous art, but I also want you to recognise it as mine as soon as you see it,” is the way he explains his aim.

Darryl deliberately sets out to challenge people's understanding of what they perceive as Indigenous art. For example, he resists the use of too many dots, which would not have been successful in the context of his coin designs. He also strives for a modern edge, finding the design technology available at the Mint to be helpful. “I am an Indigenous person of Australia, but I'm also modern in the way that I can create artwork on the computer,” he says.

Behind the designs for The Dreaming Series lies Darryl's fascination with the interaction of Australia's native wildlife within the vast and varied landscape. The inspiration for each piece emerges as he imagines himself in the midst of the natural environment, where he relives the experience of its colours, warmth, textures and sounds in his mind. It comes naturally to him, having been brought up for an expected life in the bush.

Intensely familiar with many Australian native animals, Darryl observes them in his mind's eye, searching for a telling movement or posture which will reveal its experience. The different treatments of the kangaroo illustrate the result of this contemplative process.

On the silver coin he shows its power and speed – a reaction maybe to being startled by a predator or a bush fire. The coloured element, symbolising Australia's red dirt, seemingly explodes beneath the impact of its feet. In contrast, the gold coin portrays the animal in a calm mood – its relaxed, comfortable stance revealing a tranquil, undisturbed moment, maybe at dusk as it comes out to feed.

With his platinum designs, Darryl subtly reminds us that animals existed in harmony with the land long before the appearance of mankind. References to courtship rituals and progeny are used to symbolise their ancient process of renewal.

“I have an inherent ability to tell a story,” Darryl explains, “My art, as well as the music I write, is art of my story telling.” In the case of The Dreaming Series, it conveys the respect he has for the animals in the beauty of their own environment. The message reflects his optimism for the future. “It feels as though everyone is starting to wake up and see things the way my people have been taught for so long through ancient stories about the Dreaming.”

Each coin design, depicted with fluid shapes and patterns inspired by nature, represents Darryl's tribute to the animal. “My main hope is that people might say, 'oh, why is this happening?', or 'why is the animal doing that?' They may never have even seen a brolga before. If they think it's beautiful, they might learn a bit more about it. They might want to learn about the traditional people who live on the land inhabited by these animals.”