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It's appropriate for this first image that some of the last comments I raised were about my (very) personal predilections & artistic "mien": my first "real" creative efforts were in jewellery-making employing mainly silver & semi-precious stones - although I did at times use gold...

The very personal aspects of creating "body art" can be seen as a "stepping-stone" for future work: I was intrigued in particular with traditional Aboriginal rock-carvings (particularly the Adnyamathanha rock-art in the Flinders ranges) & wondered how I might emulate some of their techniques along with an embodiment of broader Aboriginal insight into the interwoven patterning of the natural world.

Specifically, the patterning seen in much of the natural world: patterns in cloud, wood grain, erosion & water, markings on beach, sand, skin, feather, fur & scale...those on rocks & in sedimentary layers etc, etc...the list is endless.

Serendipity dictated that the (also) ancient art of cuttlefish bone casting was an easy technique to employ here in South Australia, the waters of our twin gulfs being the natural habitat of the giant Southern Cuttlefish with their bony "shells" strewn along our beaches throughout the year. Much Aboriginal rock-carving is done by "pecking" into brittle rock-face with another hard, pointed tool & this too was almost identical in sculpting cuttlebones to form the patterns in these casting moulds.

I made mastery of that technique one of my first tasks & the complementary nature of this casting method with the natural world can perhaps best be seen in the Kookaburra brooch here...the bird's feathers find a natural resonance within the cuttlebone that leaves its' trademark footprint in said castings... J


NOTE:           Some of the images on this page are "clickable" and will open up as "full scale images" in a new tab.
                        Depending on the size of your monitor you may have to click again on this image to enlargen it


Yerrakartarta, a Kaurna (Adelaide Plains First Nation people) word meaning "at random" or "without design" was one of those opportunities that an artist might receive once every Blue Moon! ;)

After an 18 month "developmental" period I signed a contract several inches thick & became the Designer, Principal Artist, Project Director & copyright holder for this project, at the time the largest Australian commission for an Aboriginal public artwork, situated in the Hyatt/International Hotel forecourt within the Adelaide CBD.

Taking 18 months to complete & utilising the facilities of the renown "South Australian Jam Factory" I was ably supported by my commissioned partner Stephen Bowers during this period: I made a particular point of gaining approval from the Kaurna Elders committee before the project's commencement - at the time seen by the commissioning agents as somewhat unusual - but I am proud to say that this type of local Indigenous consultative process is now the norm! J

I was responsible for not only supervising all aspects of the various artforms employed in this work and also personally creating all the metal fabrication, etchings etc: one can readily "see" my origins in jewellery practice in images pictured below!



I also made it a point to engage a local Kaurna artist & Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri artist Muriel van der Byl became part of "the team" - her art-renderings of the stories of both Tjilbruke & Ngurunderi being most skilfully & beautifully interpreted into large ceramic murals by the joint efforts of Jo Crawford & Jo Fraser, skilled ceramic artists...the thousands of individually-fired tiles for the murals being part of the  huge logistical challenge to pack, transport & affix to the art-site walls...

Extremely mindful that this would be a major work of Aboriginal art, pride & the re-affirmation of our culture, I was driven to be obsessive about how the work evolved, including all the many ancillary duties involved & I soon realised that for the greatest outcome I also had to be able to allow each artist the full "licence" to express their own individual talents best - as well as how these interacted with the overall design ...this also applied to the more "mundane" construction work & these people's roles where difficult obstacles needed to be resolved structurally etc:

The outcome I believed to be truly an alchemic result from all elements of the equation & a triumph of the project's possibilities - Yerrakartarta, at random or without design..! ;)



6-YerrakartartaBronzeHex#1DarkBackground     7-YerrakartartaBronzeHex#2-FINAL530x530DarkBackground


A year after the completion of Yerrakartarta & following the awarding of a "Full Fellowship" from the Australia Council for The Arts I held an exhibition at Tandanya, the National Aboriginal Cultural Institute.

Amongst my exhibited works was "Eerie Eyrie" - employing my penchant for word-play & in certain ways a wry comment upon consumer society, the mighty dollar atop the pyramid sitting in its eyrie “nest” above the landscape with a (real) dollar coin jammed in the refund slot, unable to be retrieved. ;)


Two surviving relics of the art-installation "Same Story, Different Places" nominally chronicling the anonymity that befell many Aboriginal societies, especially where Europeans established urban settlements, this exhibition was curated by Marie Boland in the old Unley Fire Station which had become the Unley City Museum.

Catalogue designer Marg Degotardi had created this striking poster using some of the figures I created for the installation: "Enter the Dragon" being one of the wall artworks complementing the floor installation.



Shortly after the "S.S.D.S." exhibition closed at Unley & began a national tour I was approached by Gail Greenwood , the Director of The Flinders University Art Museum to submit a work in a national travelling exhibition entitled "Impetus to Adorn" - the brief sent to a selection of Indigenous & non-Indigenous artist was to create body-art or adornments. Always subverting whatever was possible I went somewhat against the grain of the exhibition's brief to use an elaborate woven silver torc I had fashioned a couple of years earlier, setting it in some found "junk" material complete with one of my various signature figurines...one objective being to challenge anyone (including the exhibition curators) on what is/how we identify adornment, junk or anything else that we are unfamiliar with..!

I was pleased to read this critique from respected art critic Dr. Noris Iannou on the exhibition: "But of the 53 works, it is Darryl Pfitzner Milika's "Indigenous Knack-Piece" which is most telling in its enclosure of ceremony & satire on Western metalwork, an interface of clashing cultures."

Same Story, Different Places finished its national tour by returning to Adelaide for exhibiting in the Kaurna Gallery at Tandanya during the Adelaide Festival...I had created a few works in the meantime & took the opportunity to exhibit them next to S.S.D.S. - I called this small (additional) set of works "Elementary perspectives."

Included in these works was the distinctive 3-piece circular set titled "Psychorama" which (much later) had the distinction of being chosen as the artistic icon for the 4th National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander  Visual Arts Conference. (2002)



Another (humorous) creation was the fabrication "Metamorphosis/Strange Voyage" replete with Kangaroid Man peering through a bent yidaki (didjeridu) & holding a lantern featuring a burn-out match-head, these being his navigational devices.

Perhaps the most striking/poignant of these works was "The Great Divide" (below) displaying an armour-plated heart, torn open to reveal a small child's handprint in red & yellow ochre on the inside: this work was later chosen to travel to Capetown National Gallery in South Africa where it met with good responses - some South African artists who had seen the work came to Adelaide subsequently & I spent several hours being recorded over my philosophy & approach to art: I had received similar attention for my work during that abovementioned Adelaide Festival when First Nation American artists also visited Tandanya with their own exhibition.



Subsequent to these exhibitions I had contact with SA History through various colleagues & was commissioned to create a work for an exhibition they were installing at the National Motor Museum called "Driving Force."

This work titled "Under the Duco, Beyond the Veneer" featured more of my penchant for humorous/bizarre constructions...this time a kind of auto/animal creation to confound with its presence in an exhibition primarily focusing on the history of the motor vehicle...






Speaking of "bizarre" - an artist's activities can indeed appear bizarre at times! On one occasion I found myself dissecting skeletal pieces (not human!) using a small electrical tool similar to a disk-cutter or the devices surgeons use...as I sliced these animal skulls, vertebrae etc the fragments falling onto the workbench appeared to resemble letters from a foreign script, others the appearance of small creatures..!



This gave me the idea to assemble selected pieces into what look like ancient script & again challenge people with their intent: most of the bones used were either sheep or kangaroo parts & under the association with the phrase "Australia rode on the sheep's back" which originally referred to the wealth generated by the wool trade in earlier days, I challenged the viewer to speculate upon possible meanings given that their immediate appearance was that of "text" - particularly since Australia's pastoral industry was generated by unpaid Aboriginal labour..."pastoral letters" also being circulated church documents: hence the wordplay title "Beguiled: Pastoral Letters."

This "text' also resembled creatures such as frogs, birds & tortoises (see images) amongst other things, giving a new meaning to my earlier comments about complementary patterns within the natural world..! J Tony Bishop, another South Australian artist commissioned to create a sculpture at the start of Adelaide's inner metropolitan zone at the foot of the Mt. Lofty Ranges interstate freeway, was so taken by their symbolic impact he included their likenesses in his "Fossil Forest" artwork with my permission.

During the next Adelaide Festival of Arts I took on the role of senior collaborator with 2 younger Aboriginal artists to create the exhibition "3space-21st Century Indigenous Explorers" where I exhibited (amongst other work) this piece, "Shattered - coming apart" using polished & etched stainless steel as part of the composition, worked to resemble breaking mirror shards...





"Heart & Spirit" took me back to some of the ideas behind "Same Story, Different Places" in that I had a penchant for creating installations that had some resemblance to a stage setting: in this work a large diaphanous canopy illuminated from the inside hung in a darkened space...entrance was at one point via an opening similar to a curtain pulled back & the viewer was invited to step inside this semi-illuminated veil/enclosure.

Inside were 7 life-size forms vaguely human in shape with their large oval "faces" as mirrors...the figures were positioned in a semi-circular arrangement so that looking into any single mirror reflected the viewer & several of the other figures. Below the "mirror faces" were small enclosures in the figures, diffusely lit from behind & featuring small artworks somewhat similar to the votive offerings for religious icons.


Of interest from an artist's actual experiential account in creating a particular art-piece is that in one example shown here I had successfully created the cocoon for it but was struggling to create a satisfactory piece for the emergent butterfly itself.

Frustrated, I went for a short walk & in the gutter somewhere I found the battered remains of a butterfly...taking it home I clipped back the tattered wings to where the remains were still whole & used these in a small wood carving I then fashioned, finishing it with a metal appliqué - & the work & transformation "Metamorphosis" was complete! J

"Yangadlitya" - another Kaurna word meaning "tomorrow" or "for the future" was a commission I was awarded by one of the Adelaide metropolitan councils/governing bodies in a small park on the corner of a very busy intersection.

Over the years I have built up some good relationships with Kaurna people here in Adelaide even though my grandmother's country is from SA's West Coast - I have been privileged to have been able to create 2 significant public works in Kaurna Country, Yerrakartarta & Yangadlitya.


The brief for this commission included an acknowledgement of the Mediterranean immigration to that particular area of Adelaide over the years amongst other commissioning factors: it was an area I knew well from spending a significant amount of my childhood there.

I utilised several different materials in this creation: red calca granite from my grandmother's country, local black marble & white Italian Carrara marble not only for its' own compositional input but also in acknowledgement of the large Italian population who had made that area their home over time...

Again I employed figures with elemental human forms & other symbolic aspects - & due to the heavy traffic from both a pollution-wise & accident-risk consideration I opted for 8mm thick marine-grade stainless steel for these figures, very firmly anchored..!






Some time later at another gallery exhibition at the Flinders University's new city gallery in the heart of Adelaide's CBD I exhibited several (apparently) more conventional (larger) works.

These included: "Flyaway Country" "Boundary Country" "Climbing Moon Country" & "Maze-Beginnings" - each of these works being "minimalist" compositions that employed 3-dimensional elements in them.




Again working with SA History through the South Australian Migration Museum I was invited to create a strong work for their new entrance foyer: this became the suite of 10 works collectively titled "Impact" & had as its direct focus an account of Australia' First People - Aboriginal Australians - from a historical perspective spanning the distant past through to colonisation & beyond...the Director of this institution at the time (Ms Viv Szekeres) had a passionate belief that this new building in the Migration Museum should have a bold acknowledgement of The First Australians

I opted finally for a type of illustrated story-book style of interpretation for these 10 works: the Museum ran a strong schools program with continuous class visits from students & this seemed a good choice to make, but there were of course other factors in this decision of mine that reflected an interest in illuminated manuscripts et al also...





An important aspect to consider when looking at these web images is that they do not give a terribly good idea of the actual artworks themselves (images never do!?!)

They are all 3-dimensional works (as seen in the image above) created in the style of "dioramas" and each work is set in a polished redgum case with brass corner-pieces & glass fronts: I wanted these works to echo in some ways the typical "museum" format for display - & as dioramas this also afforded a high level of protection in all ways


This next image is that of another of my works that is an extension of those images before the "Impact" examples - this extension involving greater detailing & sculptural elements within the composition.

"Birds" was exhibited at my retrospective exhibition at Tandanya (a great honour as the first retrospective in Tandanya's history of over 20 years at that time).




It was at this retrospective exhibition where I also exhibited these last few works: these display my penchant for small-scale pieces, "objets d'art" almost - & here I again combine symbolism with representation to express aspects of human emotional response...




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