Contextual Research CPS Painting Research Studio Practice Term 2

Contextual post – Sidney Nolan

Sidney Nolan was an Australian artist who used a variety of mediums in his work. His work focused on Australian history which is one of the reasons he is so well known.

Although the subject matter of his work is not relevant to my project, I feel that his colour palettes and high amounts of contrast which he uses to draw attention to certain parts of his works could be useful in my work. His work features a lot of nature and landscapes, lots focused in desert like areas which is relevant to where he lived.

The uses of red in ‘Camel and Figure’ and ‘Inland Australia’ are very captivating and it seems like these bright colours were used to portray the intensity of the sun in the desert areas at specific times of day. The fact that places look different depending upon the time of day is very intriguing and shows that you could get different feelings and emotions from architecture and nature during different seasons and times.

Sidney Nolan doesn’t make the skies in his paintings block colours which I like to explore in my own work through adding different colours into the sky as even though sometimes the sky does seem one colour, if you look properly there is always more than meets the eye.

I find this piece very relevant to my work as it includes widows which is a key aspect of my project. I find the colours used very eye catching and I find the layering of browns in the background creates a wood effect which could be Nolan trying to capture an element of history.

Information I got from video above:

A room which is dedicated to Sidney Nolan’s famous Ned Kelly series. It’s a very important series both in the national gallery’s collection but also in the history of Australian art. Part of the reason for the importance of this series is the fact that Nolan drew on the incredible saga of Ned Kelly and the way that he brought a totally fresh response to the Australian landscape and to the idea of a national identity. This series wanted to pick on the idea of a legend based in history. He was interested in Australia’s national identity at a time when the Ward raised a whole lot of questions. One of the iconic images in this series is simply named Kelly and in this painting Nolan encapsulates the image of Ned Kelly in the way that he conceived. We need to remember that this was a totally fresh vision Ned Kelly. He places Ned Kelly on his horse very centrally in the composition and the extraordinary thing about it is he places him in the suit of Armour with the box of his head basically it’s just a black square and in the middle is this visor which stands in for the head and we see the clouds in the Sky had very much that sense of Ned Kelly integrated in the Australian landscape. Very bold and poetic it’s informed by European Modernism as the whole series is and we really get a sense of Nolan trying to nail this idea of what constitutes the Australian landscape, He painted a landscape around the wimmera that he saw when he was in the army. It’s a flat bleached yellow landscape with little trees dotting the horizon line at the spaciousness works beautifully against conic compact image of Ned Kelly with his rifle in his horse. It’s an image that was shown at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 to symbolise Australia, perhaps to give a sense of us as something anti-authoritarian with a sense of which and certainly the image has a sense of drama. Sidney Nolan had an extraordinary vision to the story of Ned Kelly. It’s now become so well recognised in Australian art that the image of Ned Kelly is very much synonymous with Sidney Nolan. It was a very important series in his own artistic life and certainly in the history of Australian art. It has assumed great significance by placing these works in an Oval room as they are, we really get a sense of the unfolding nature of the story. In an almost filmic way, we can trace that view of Ned Kelly in his Armour in a whole lot of different versions. In the way that Nolan has painted him, I think the poetry, the humour, pathos, a lot of bad sense of the struggle that went on in the saga is brought through in the way that Nolan painted this series, but he’s obviously done it in a very poetic way. He thought about how we see the landscape and these works turn just as well in the history of Australian landscape painting as they do in terms of history painting. Sunday Reed gifted the series hanging in this room to the National Gallery in 1977 and we remain very grateful to her for this extraordinary gift.

Information I got from video above:

Sidney Nolan is one of Australia’s most important artists of the second half of the 20th century. His output was prolific, his sense of originality was extraordinary. He was innovative, he took risks he was a truly Avantgarde artist and he really changed the way we understand the Australian landscape. In fact, he changed the way we understand who we are as people, by that I mean that he has become synonymous with the way we understand who we are through the legend of Ned Kelly. It is a wonderful story about this Irish bushranger, but I guess why we find Nolan so fascinating as an artist is his own life story. He started out in Saint Kilda and he grew up so adventurous to take risks,  to you know stand upside down on the Big Dipper and make everybody scream with fear at the thought of him falling off, so he was a bit of a larrikin, a bit of a lad and I think that that sense of taking risks was what underpinned his greatness as an artist. He went to the National Gallery school to attend the sketching classes but as he accounted later he only stayed ever for about half an hour and then it’s a “I’ll forget this I’m going up to read” and he go up into the Public Library and there he read he read the philosopher’s, he read the poets and in fact for some time there was a struggle between whether he would be a poet or whether he would be a painter. Fortunately painting won but his painting is always imbued with a real sense of the poetic and it’s one of the reasons he’s such a great artist. When you get into the 1940s of course he’s called up into the army, he was a pacifist he knew that he couldn’t fire a rifle and so he was sent out into the wimmera district to guard the army stores. It was the light that he discovered out in the wimmera with the horizon line and the wonderful sense of clear blue skies that really tells the story of the loneliness of this young man who had been stationed out there who found beauty in just observing the landscape. When it appeared that he might be sent New Guinea to fight after all and being a pacifist, he left the army,  and he went AWOL. It was during this that he painted the Kelly series out Heidi and it was this series that he really gave Australians a new vision of their own sense of identity. Nolan once said no one will ever know what the series is about but I think we guess that it is very much about the tangled life of Nolan and the reeds and the separation of Nolan from his first wife who he had met when he was in school. He also painted in 1946 an extraordinary image of an Australian footballer they love sport NI loved Australian rules and although for many years people thought that this image of a footballer was generic, we now know from Nolan’s own words that in fact it was someone from his favourite team that he was depicting and was one of his favourite players none other than the famous full back Billy Moore. Nolan later painted another Saint this time a real Saint turn Anthony. In the early 50s he went to Europe for the first time to really explore the old Masters, to come to grips with the great musical scene that he loves so much and in Italy he fell in love with the Renaissance. He fell in love with artists like Joto, like Piero Della Francesca and these artists always brought something new to his work but Nolan couldn’t leave behind his love of the Australian landscape. So, in the temptation of Saint Anthony, you get a Fusion of both the Australian landscape and the Renaissance world of Saints and the Renaissance landscape of Joto. With all of Nolan’s paintings you have this great Fusion of the poetic the personal and the universal as you have in this work.

How Sidney Nolan’s work inspires my project:

I have decided to research Sidney Nolan through the recommendation of one of my tutors. As he focused on the Australian landscape they felt it was relevant as I am focusing on the Architecture in Leicester. The similarity being that we both are focusing on one place only. Although Sidney Nolan’s work isn’t architectural themed, I felt drawn in by the colour schemes and layering. Leicester architecture doesn’t have many colours related to the desert but as I am being experimental with colour in my project, I feel that I could integrate some of Sidney Nolan’s colour schemes into my project, even as mere experiments and if they are successful then I will find ways to take them further. It would be interesting for me to have an icon in my pieces, like Sidney Nolan did with Ned Kelly but I’m not sure what this could be and I don’t want to take away from the architecture but I may look into this in the future.

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