Angus Nivison: Letters Home

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Angus Nivison Letters Home



Angus Nivison Letters Home

6 April - 4 May, 2013

Š Utopia Art Sydney


Angus Nivison in his studiol seated before A Song, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 192 x 688cm


Angus Nivison Letters Home

by Susie Burge

Australian artist Angus Nivison describes the creative process of memory as “the world seeping in and then coming out at a different time”, a phrase oddly reminiscent of the great English poet Wordsworth’s famous “emotion recollected in tranquillity”. For Nivison, it’s the introspective nature of memory, the voyeurism, the period of observing and reobserving and thinking, an almost sensual mulling over (sometimes over years), that leads to a finished painting. In October 2011, the artist and his wife Caroline took up a three-month residency in one of the Art Gallery of NSW studios in the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. Before leaving, Nivison promised his mother to write. A tender, almost archaic practice, handwritten letters. Also, realising the atelier would not be suited to large scale painting, he took favourite drawing paper with him – old letterhead, each 20 x 19.5 cm sheet stamped with the name and out-of-date phone numbers of the family grazing property where he lives in the New England region of NSW. The title of the resulting exhibition - Letters Home pushes us, the viewers, in certain philosophical and emotive directions: memory, nostalgia, homesickness, communication from one place to another place, from one time to another, from one person to another, from there to here. Nivison is not a 19th century artist poet. He has a mobile, macbook, kindle, plus two cool kids (one’s an eco architect and one’s a street/surf/skate artist) to ground him in the contemporary world. The oldfashioned romanticism of only making small drawings, born out of the perceived practical limitations of a confined studio space, was pretty brave. For the first couple of weeks Nivison could hardly do anything at all, almost paralysed under the weight of his own expectations.


Angus Nivison Letters Home

“At first, I put a lot of pressure on myself… but then once I got into the drawing process I became absorbed by it, I almost didn’t want to leave the studio,” he says, allowing me to leaf through a humble recycled cardboard box of close to 60 drawings interleaved with pale pink acid-free tissue, the sum of three months work in Paris. These drawings in graphite and gesso and wash, fragile, delicate, intriguing in their own right, some quite figurative with tree branches and shadowy bridges, some near abstract compositions, pinned one by one on the walls of the Paris studio, led to the larger drawings and paintings made back at home in rural Australia over the 18 months that followed. “None of these are of any particular place in Paris at all, it’s just what happened when I was there for three months,” he says simply, of the larger works. “The one thing you didn’t see (in the box) is a drawing for that painting - because there isn’t one,” he elaborates, referring to the most literal canvas in the show: A Winter Memory, Paris. Spare and elegant, with echoes of Nivison’s very early pictures, there are traces of Giacometti (the three bare trees could almost be three elongated figures). “In the winter chill, you see the bones of things,” says Nivison. “When it got cold, the tourists just disappeared – going from the hustle and bustle to empty space, a lovely sense of loss which I adored. That’s when things started to happen for me.” There’s a wide range of technique and mood in the drawings and paintings, from refined, spare scribbles and lines of graphite to pure indigo and lush velvety bleeding acrylic (lolly pink, acid green, smoke). A range of inspirations and influences too: Paris at night, bridges over the Seine, the colour of limestone, escargot, camembert wrappers, skyscapes of scudding clouds and rain, slender trees in the Tuileries coming in to winter, passing landscapes seen from a train to Berlin; Turner, Monet, Giacometti, Cezanne, early Picasso, Cy Twombly, the two moons in Murakami’s novel IQ84; and remembered landscapes too, Australian landscapes, New England landscapes in particular, born

out of deliberate nostalgia and melancholic bouts of homesickness. The most radical painting in the show is Nightgarden, a trippy, topsy-turvy homage to Monet’s waterlily paintings, a mad dark velvety rainbow of drifting or falling colour. “It’s a little bit cosmos, a little bit deep Space as well,” Nivison says, as we look. We talk of British painter John Hoyland, Morris Louis stain paintings; Amy Winehouse and spray can street art. “There’s all the other lessons that I’ve learnt – there’s still the gorge country in there, but then there are these marks over the top,” Nivison points out. “It was one of those paintings that took me by the hand – I just had to go with it,” he says. “When I stood back, I was actually quite shocked.” Nightgarden and its more accessible twin, the highly charged Rumble (a gorgeous dramatic painting about stormy weather and approaching climate change) stand diametrically opposed to A Song, the major work in the exhibition. Four panels long, with brave sections of naked canvas, pure pigment, wash and delicate graphite, it outgrew even the biggest Yalgoolygum studio wall and covered over the door. (The first time I saw A Song I had to crawl underneath a panel, whisky in hand, to get in.) The genesis of the painting was a series of small pale drawings inspired by a sudden scudding of clouds and rain, seen through the atelier window with a view of the sky. “If I hadn’t gone to Paris I would never have figured it out,” Nivison states. “I wanted to do a follow-on from Remembering Rain (winner of the Wynne Prize in 2002) but I couldn’t think how to do it. I wanted to capture the fleetingness of how weather is. It (the painting) is planned to the nth degree but it looks very spontaneous.” A Song is informed by the sensibility of Chinese and Japanese landscape painting and Cy Twombly pictures seen in the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, among other things. “A lot of this (A Song) was painted listening to Bach,” he adds. “I had


the little drawings which were a key to doing it, but because it was such a chancy painting I did bigger drawings so I could practice. It’s probably the most risky painting I’ve ever done.” There’s an underlying consistency here. Even when Nivison’s individual works seem very different, there’s a voice, a thumbprint, a subtle but powerful visual language at play. The willingness to experiment, to take risks, to fail, to put himself out there rather than settle into familiar patterns, to go “somewhere else” as he often says, marks him out as a painter. A recent survey exhibition of Angus Nivison’s work travelled from Tamworth Regional Gallery to Newcastle and culminated in a highly successful season at the SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney in January 2013. Audiences and critics responded. John McDonald termed the survey exhibition a “New Year’s Revelation” in a glowing review. People came back again and again to view these major canvasses and selected drawings and attend the program of lectures and conversations. Nivison’s heartfelt, lived, emotive and even spiritual explorations and evocations of landscape and memory, landscape and abstraction, absence and presence – the solace of rain, imagined mountains, last light – continue to strike a chord.

Paris Winter Day, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 130 x 120cm

“An achingly sad beautiful painting will do it for me every time. It transfixes me. Part of me is trying to do that ….I was looking for beauty in this lot; I was not embarrassed by the sublime. Is that a fair comment?” It’ll do.

© Susie Burge

http://artravelife.com/

Paris Winter Night, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 130 x 120cm



Rumble, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 200 x 360cm



Nightgarden, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 200 x 360cm


A Winter Memory, Paris, 2013, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 200 x 180cm


Christmas - Paris, 2013, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 200 x 180cm


Two Moons, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 160 x 155cm

Barometer, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pig


gments & gesso on canvas, 160 x 155cm

Homesick, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 160 x 155cm


Study for Rumble, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on paper, 106 x 152cm


Counterpoint, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on paper, 153 x 206cm



A Song, 2012, acrylic, charcoal, pigments & gesso on canvas, 192 x 688cm


Angus Nivison Biography

Solo Exhibitions 2013 2012 2011 2009 2008 2006 2006 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1999 1997 1995 1993 1991 1989 1987 1985 1984 1982

‘Letters Home’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, S.H. Ervin Gallery, NSW ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, Tamworth Regional Art Gallery, NSW ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, Newcastle University Art Gallery, NSW ‘Other Places’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Impossible Landscapes’ Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Above and Below’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Learning a Language: all about the weather’, Moree Plains Gallery, Moree NSW ‘Uncertain Light/Pools’, New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, NSW ‘ear to the ground’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘The Language of Mountains is Rain’, Coffs Harbour City Gallery, NSW ‘Paintings from Yalgoolygum’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, NSW BBA Gallery, Sydney, NSW BBA Gallery, Sydney, NSW Coventry, Sydney, NSW Coventry, Sydney, NSW Coventry, Sydney, NSW Coventry, Sydney, NSW New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, NSW Coventry, Sydney, NSW Standfield Gallery, Melbourne, VIC Bloomfield Gallery, Sydney, NSW Bloomfield Gallery, Sydney, NSW Parmenter Gallery, Walcha, NSW Gallery A, Sydney, NSW

Selected Group Exhibitions 2013 2012

‘The Salon’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ’25 Years – the Rio Tinto Retrospective’, Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre, NSW ‘Ground Up – A Fundraising Exhibition’, Damien Minton Annex Space, NSW ‘Voices of Art 3: An Evening of Art for Animals’, NSW ‘paperworks’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Art for Humanity: Painting and Jewellery for Australian Red Cross’, Depot Gallery, NSW ‘Best of Coventry: Coventry’s Artists’, New England

Regional Art Museum, NSW ‘Repertoire’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW Dobell Prize for Drawing, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Mosman Art Prize, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney, NSW 2011 ‘Angus and Friends’, Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, NSW ‘Up Close and Personal: works from the collection of Dr Peter Elliott AM’, S. H. Ervin Gallery, NSW ‘Fleurieu Art Prize’, Hardys Winery, McLaren Vale, SA Mosman Art Prize, Mosman, NSW 2010 ‘Water’ King Street Gallery, NSW Inaugural exhibition, Defiance Gallery, Paddington, NSW ‘Museum III’ Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Salon des Refuses’, S.H. Ervin Gallery, NSW ‘Black is the Colour’ Shoalhaven City Arts Centre, NSW ‘Melbourne Art Fair 2010’, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, VIC ‘First Exhibition of Contemporary Arts’ Kabul, Afghanistan 2009 ‘pinned & framed’ Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Abstraction’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘A Combined Exhibition of Local Artists’ Walcha Gallery of Art, NSW ‘Countryscapes 2009’, Lismore Regional Gallery, NSW ‘Countryscapes 2009’, The Glashouse Arts, Conference and Entertainment Centre, Port Macquarie, NSW 2008 ‘Australian Abstraction’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Melbourne Art Fair’, Royal Exhibition Building, VIC ‘Countryscapes 2008’, Country Energy art prize, Wentworth Gallery, NSW ‘Pairs of Paintings’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Fifty Years of the Muswellbrook Shire Collection 1958 – 2008’, Muswellbrook Regional Art Centre, NSW 2007 ‘The 22nd Annual Packsaddle Exhibition’. New England Regional Art Museum, NSW ‘Country Energy Art Prize For Landscape Painting’, Dubbo Regional Gallery, NSW Dobell Prize for Drawing, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW ‘Archibald Prize’, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Archibald Prize Regional Tour’ Manning Regional Gallery, NSW ‘Archibald Prize Regional Tour’, Bega Valley Regional Gallery, NSW


Angus Nivison Biography - continued

2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999

“Turning 20”, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘The Year In Art’ S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, NSW ‘Melbourne Art Fair 2006’, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, VIC ‘Regional Encounters’, Tamworth City Art Gallery, NSW ‘Walcha City of Art/ Contemporary Australian Art’, Karlovy Vary Art Gallery, Czech Republic ‘Same Place, Many Views’, Defiance Gallery, Sydney, NSW ‘Bits and Pieces abstract art’ Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘from big things little things grow’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘Redlands Westpac Art Prize’, Mosman Gallery, Sydney, NSW ‘Sydney v Melbourne’, Silvershot, Melbourne, VIC ‘Sydney Art on Paper Fair’ , Byron Kennedy Hall, Sydney, NSW ‘Museum II’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW ‘New Ideas 2005’, Utopia Art Sydney, NSW The Wynne Prize’, Art Gallery of New South Wales, NSW Winner ‘Art on The Rocks’, Sydney Visitor Centre, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW ‘Hazelhurst Art Award 2005 - Art on Paper’, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre, Sydney, NSW ‘Agri/Culture: Re-creating The Living Landscape’,Hawkesbury Regional Gallery, NSW ‘Country Energy Art Prize for Landscape Painting’, Grafton Regional Gallery, NSW ‘Melbourne Art Fair 2004’, Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne, VIC Tattersals Club Prize, Brisbane, QLD Jacaranda Drawing Prize, Grafton Regional Gallery, Grafton, NSW Walcha City of Art, New Contemporaries Gallery, Sydney, NSW Surface Memories, Tamworth Regional Art Gallery, Tamworth, NSW Archibald Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW BBA Gallery, Inaugural Exhibition, Sydney, NSW Federation, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, ACT (touring) Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW

1998 1996 1995

Archibald Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Salon des Refusee, S.H.Ervin Gallery, Sydney, NSW Kedumba Drawing Award, Blue Mountains, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW ‘Salon des Refusee’, S.H.Ervin Gallery, Sydney, NSW Salon des Refusee’, S.H.Ervin Gallery, Sydney, NSW ‘Dobell Drawing Prize’, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Salon des Refusee, S.H.Ervin Gallery, Sydney, NSW Chandler Coventry:Obsession, Campbelltown City Art Gallery(touring), NSW 1993 ‘Chandler Coventry: A Private Collection’, Campbelltown City Art Gallery, NSW 1991 ‘New Art Five’, Coventry, Sydney, NSW Muswellbrook Art Prize, Muswellbrook, NSW 1988 Contemporary Views of New England, NERAM, Armidale, NSW 1986 Artists from the North West, Blaxland Gallery, Sydney, NSW 1984 Bloomfield Gallery, Sydney, NSW 1982 Regional Artists of New England, NERAM, Armidale & Tamworth City Art Gallery, NSW 1978 Gallery A, Sydney, NSW NSW Travelling Art Scholarship, Blaxland Gallery, Sydney, NSW Sydney Morning Herald Art Prize, David Jones Gallery, Sydney, NSW 1974 National Art School, Sydney, NSW Awards/Grants 2011 2005 2002 2002 1998 1992 1991 1979 1977 1976

AGNSW Cite Studio Residency, Paris, FRANCE Winner Eutrick Memorial Still Life Award (EMSLA) Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, NSW Art on The Rocks, Sydney Visitor Centre, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW Wynne Prize, AGNSW, Sydney, NSW Muswellbrook Art Prize, Muswellbrook, NSW Kedumba Drawing Award, Blue Mountains, NSW Gold Coast Art Prize, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, QLD Muswellbrook Art Prize, Muswellbrook, NSW The Sydney Morning Herald Heritage Art Prize Artist in Residence, Owen Tooth Memorial Cottage, Vence, FRANCE Narrabri Art Prize, Narrabri, NSW Mercedes Benz Award, Royal Art Society Maitland Art Prize, Maitland, NSW


Angus Nivison Biography - continued

Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales Artbank Australian Consolidated Press Gold Coast City Art Gallery Hawkesbury Regional Gallery Kedumba Collection Macquarie Group Collection Maitland City Art Gallery MEPC Australia Muswellbrook Regional Art Gallery New England Regional Art Museum New Parliament House Newcastle Region Art Gallery Tamworth Regional Gallery The Australian Club University of NSW University of New England Bibliography February 2 2013, The Planner, Sydney Morning Herald February 1 2013, Sharne Wolff, ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, The Art Life [online] January 19 2013, Brooke Lewis, ‘Memories of landscapes’, McGrath: The Weekly Magazine January 12-13 2013, John McDonald, ‘New Year’s Revelation’, Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald December 21 2012, Elizabeth Fortescue, ‘Bushie’s reluctant brush with fame’, The Telegraph November 3 2012, Jill Stowell, ‘Drawing on landscapes’, Review, Newcastle Herald July 2012, Susie Burge, ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, online, artravelife blog June – July 2012, Sandra McMahon, John McDonald, Barry Pearce, ‘Angus Nivison: A Survey’, Tamworth Regional Gallery, exhibition catalogue March 2012, Sandra McMahon, ‘Angus Nivison: Featured Artist’, New England Country Style August 2010 – January 2011, Lisa Slade, ‘Paper trail: drawings from the collection’, Artemis, Newcastle Art Gallery Society Magazine, vol. 41, no. 2 21 August 2010, Jill Stowell, ‘Drawing Attention’, Newcastle Herald

September 2010, Susie Burge, ‘Fair Trading’, Harpers Bazaar (illustration) May 2010, John McDonald, ‘small mercies’, Sydney Morning Herald March 2008 Tracey Clements, Metro, Sydney Morning Herald March 2008 John McDonald, “There’s magic in these spectacular works’, Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum Countryscapes 2008, Country Energy Catalogue, The Gunnery, 2007 Country Energy Art Prize for Landscape Painting, Western Plains Cultural Centre, Catalogue March 2007 John McDonald, ‘’A Brush with Mediocrity’, Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum ‘Natural Talent’, Hoof & Horns, 2006, Words, Richard Zachariah, Photos, Lizzi O’Connor June 2006 John McDonald, ‘A reality Czech from Walcha’, Sydney Morning Herald, Spectrum-Arts & Entertainment,p16-17 ‘Insight’, Issue 1, 2005, Westpac Magazine June 2005 Hawkesbury Regional Gallery ‘Re-Creating the Living Landscape’ Catalogue July 2005, Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald, ‘Westerly Directions’ ‘New England Picture – In what they paint I see’, new England Regional Art Museum, 9th July – 29th August 2004, Curated by Amanda Cachia 2004 Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award Catalogue, Grafton Regional Gallery After Hours, The Weekend Australian Financial Review, John McDonald, ‘Archibald’s close brush with fame’, June 2002 June 2002, The Sydney Morning Herald, Bruce James, ‘Death’s great frame of reference’ June 2002, The Daily Telegraph, Elizabeth Fortescue, ‘Hardearned Wynne’ October, 2002, Daily Telegraph, ‘Farmers turn to art for solace’ Muse, August 2001, Rocks and Flesh, Ann McMahon Sun Herald, December 2000, Hannah Edwards, ‘Art and Soul of Australia’ ‘Canberra Times’, ‘A Remarkably High Standard’, Sasha Grishin, ‘Rocks and Flesh’ at Artists Ties Gallery October 2, 1999, Sydney Morning Herald, Bryce Hallett, ‘Sent to Coventry, now he’ll hang for his mentor’ Sydney Morning Herald, 1999, ‘The Galleries’ section, ‘The Big Picture’, Sebastian Smee John McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘The Misfits: Hermits, but Brothers in Arts’ November, 1995, The Armidale Express, Wend Fitzgibbon, ‘Donation caps great week for NERAM’


Angus Nivison Biography - continued

1995 Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald, ‘Along The Path to Understanding’ ‘Landscape without Figure’, 1991, Joe Eisenberg, Director, NERAM June, 1991, Coventry Gallery, ‘Angus Nivison – Landscape Without Figure’ Catalogue Talks Angus Nivison in conversation with Christopher Hodges, S.H. Ervin Gallery, 10 February 2013

Q&A session with Angus Nivison and photographer R. Ian Lloyd, S.H. Ervin Gallery, 3 February 2013 Bryan Hooper exhibition floor talk at S.H. Ervin Gallery, 27 January 2013 Interview, ‘Canvas’, FBI Radio, 20 January 2013 ‘Studio 2’ at the State Library of NSW with Wendy Sharp, 18th September, 2008 ‘Studio’ an evening with John McDonald and Angus Nivison, Tamworth Region Art Gallery, 19 July, 2011


Angus Nivison Letters Home

6 April - 4 May, 2013

Utopia Art Sydney 2 Danks Street Waterloo NSW 2017 Telephone: + 61 2 9699 2900 email: utopiaartsydney@ozemail.com.au www.utopiaartsydney.com.au Š Utopia Art Sydney



Utopia Art Sydney 2 Danks Street Waterloo NSW 2017 Telephone: + 61 2 9699 2900 email: utopiaartsydney@ozemail.com.au www.utopiaartsydney.com.au