Dylan Mooney

Born 1995 in Yuwibara (Mackay), Australia
Lives and works in Meanjin (Brisbane), Australia
Yuwi/Meriam Mir/South Sea Islander

White Bay Power Station


Malcolm Cole – larger than life, 2024
mural painting
Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney and the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain.
Courtesy the artist and N. Smith Gallery, Sydney

Gazing out from beneath his captain’s hat, Malcom Cole, a pre-eminent innovator of contemporary dance in Australia, is memorialised by artist Dylan Mooney in this new commission. A proud Yuwi, Torres Strait, and South Sea Islander man from North Queensland, Mooney’s practice spans from painting to digital illustration. Through his research, Mooney’s work both reveals and revels in the complex queer history of Indigenous Australian art and activism.

In 1988, 200 years after the First Fleet’s arrival in Australia, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade was yet to host an Indigenous float. This mantle was picked up by dancer Malcolm Cole who conceived of a design, along with artist Panos Couros, which recreated the 1788 landing in Botany Bay. The float, carrying Cole dressed in colonial drag as a Black Captain Cook alongside a Black Sir Joseph Banks and two other Black sailors, was dragged down the street by a group of white ‘convicts’.

With a career spanning activism and dance, Cole was a founding student of the Black Theatre in Redfern, worked as a teacher and counsellor at the Aboriginal Dance Theatre, and participated in the First National Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Conference in Alice Springs in 1992. Three years later, he would pass away with the disease in the care of his brother Robert.

As Cole told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time of his iconic Mardi Gras debut, ‘It is enough trouble being Black, let alone gay’, a sentiment echoed by Dylan Mooney, himself a queer Indigenous artist. Depicting the rainbow flag across his work, Mooney reaches back to creationism to reclaim the spiralling rainbow as representative of both the story of the Rainbow Serpent and the endurance of queer Indigenous peoples. Through this work, Mooney and Cole engage in a defiant intergenerational dance celebrating the legacy of queer love within Australia’s Indigenous community.

Dylan Mooney is a proud Yuwi, Torres Strait and South Sea Islander man from Mackay (North Queensland) working across painting, printmaking, digital illustration and drawing. Influenced by history, culture and family, Mooney responds to community stories, current affairs and social media. Legally blind, the digital medium’s backlit display allows Mooney to produce a high-impact illustrative style with bright, saturated colour that reflects his experiences with keen political energy and insight. Interested in the ways in which we can reframe the conversation around some of the voices that have been left out, the artist has made an important body of work that embodies optimism and a shift in representation of queer love among people of colour.

Read more about the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, by purchasing the catalogue here.