Exh.: 6 April–16 June 2019, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
In ACCA’s main gallery, Gallery 1, the installation is three works organised as strata across the expanses of the gallery: (upper frieze) After action for another library (1999-2001/2019), traces of a book collection action over two years, 49 Type C prints, each 120 × 90cm: (middle frieze) Evening shadows (2012), including H. J .Johnstone’s painting Evening shadows (1880), 20 painted copies of Evening shadows collected from citizens of Adelaide, three video works, charcoal drawing, and a stack of off-set printed posters to take away; (lower frieze) Towards a monument to Batman’s Treaty (2008-18), proposition for a monument, 54 A0 sheets pasted to the gallery wall, 3520 bricks.
In ACCA's Gallery 2, the first section of Tom Nicholson, Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) (2012-14), proposition for a future monument: 69 framed texts, with single Eucalyptus camuldulensis seeds attached, 69 framed Type C photographs, collection of MUMA; and Tom Nicholson, Comparative monument (Shellal) (2014-17), glass tesserae mosaics, wooden boxes, dimensions variable, and two-channel video, Collection of AGNSW.
In ACCA's Gallery 3, the second section of Tom Nicholson, Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) (2012-14), proposition for a future monument: 69 framed texts, with single Eucalyptus camuldulensis seeds attached, 69 framed Type C photographs, collection of MUMA; and Tom Nicholson, Monument for the flooding of Royal Park (2008-10), single channel video; Nardoo flag-wave (2010), inkjet print, 300 × 450cm; and (with Andrew Byrne), Music for an imaginary launch (Monument for the flooding of Royal Park), a 6-minute stereo recording of a score for eight hands on a prepared piano and one voice (piano: David Shively, Alex Lipowski, Richard Carrick, David Schotzko; voice: Anna Schoo), Collection of NGA, Canberra.
In ACCA's Gallery 4, the third section of Tom Nicholson, Comparative monument (Ma’man Allah) (2012-14), proposition for a future monument: 69 framed texts, with single Eucalyptus camuldulensis seeds attached, 69 framed Type C photographs, collection of MUMA; and, Gorge photograph (13 September 1939) (2017-19), six charcoal drawings, each 108 × 130 cm, and an off-set printed artist’s book to take away.
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