Tom Nicholson: Public Meeting, 2019

Exh.: 6 April–16 June 2019, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

Reflecting the complex dynamic between historical traces and speculative futures in Tom Nicholson’s drawing, sculptural and social practice, Tom Nicholson: Public Meeting was the first large-scale exhibition to survey the scope of the artist’s practice.

For Nicholson, the medium of drawing has become a way of connecting his work to wider cultural histories, focussing on the relationship between actions and their traces, and the imagination of new, as-yet-unrealised cultural forms.

A concurrent motif that recurs in Nicholson’s work is the figure of the monument, and an engagement with its weight, authority and persistence, and, on the other hand, its ability to be questioned, reconfigured and reimagined. Working with historical materials and the visual languages of art and politics, Nicholson creates possibilities for new kinds of monuments and picture-making, informed by listening, taking account and giving voice to others, with an insistence on acts of imagination, solidarity and justice.

The verticality of the monument is also set against the horizontality of landscape, which is referenced in the panoramic and cartographic form of much of Nicholson’s work. The figure of the landscape, and significance of land and country, bears an inevitable relationship to the roles of place and displacement, inscription and movement, exile and homecoming that course through the artist’s work.

This dialogue between the horizontality of landscape and the verticality of monuments conjures, as Mihnea Mircan describes in a new publication, a sense of ‘lateral vertigo’, manifest at ACCA as intersecting strata of images, texts, and cultural histories that make up Nicholson’s practice – and the structure of the exhibition itself – in a complex dynamic between commemorative and speculative image-histories.

Curated by ACCA’s Artistic Director Max Delany, the exhibition included key projects by Nicholson dating from 1999 to the present, along with newly commissioned work.

Accompanying Tom Nicholson’s survey exhibition was a major new monograph published by Sternberg Press, Berlin, in association with ACCA, Melbourne and IMA, Brisbane. Tom Nicholson: Lines towards Another, edited by Amelia Barikin and Helen Hughes, includes an introduction by Aileen Burns, Max Delany and Johan Lundh, along with an ambitious collection of essays by leading Australian and international writers, art historians and cultural theorists, including: Amelia Barikin, Tony Birch, Brigid Crone, Anthony Gardner, Helen Hughes, Anneke Jaspers, Ryan Johnston, John Mateer, Mihnea Mircan, Grace Samboh and Ann Stephen.

Watch the interview with Tom Nicholson here.



This project was supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, Besen Family Foundation, Gordon Darling Foundation, and exhibition donors Bruce Parncutt AO and anonymous

Related work

Towards a monument to Batman's Treaty


This website is currently undergoing significant re-working, which results in occasional glitches and anomalies, which we hope to rectify soon. Designed and edited by Tom Nicholson and Ziga Testen, built by Anthony Kolber using Stacey and Dropbox.