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Melancholy definitely has a place

Nivision, A. Summer Cotton Bimbang, 2009.

Nivision, A. Summer Cotton Bimbang, 2009.

I knew I was going to like the work of a man who declares  ‘I think happiness is totally overrated in our society. This endless pursuit of happiness is dangerous, and I think a huge waste of time. Melancholy definitely has a place… You can’t be a complete person unless you know happiness and unless you know sorrow.’

And to my delight, I found a show full of black.

Angus Nivison’s black is brave and elemental; mixed with ash and charcoal – at times it’s ruggedly earthy as if you are staring into the death of a campfire. It’s also a yawning black; unlimited, reminiscent of a night sky without stars or what we see standing at the mouth of a cave. At other times Nivison uses black to support the most vibrant of reds and orange and yellow, proving that black can be the best of partners. These works are wonderful, throbbing with more intensity than a Rothko but with something of the same harmony. Summer Cotton Bimbang, above, was one of my favourites in the show – it immediately evoked Rosalie Gascoigne‘s famous Lamp Lit series of neon road signs. Both artists have much in common; a dedication to the Australian landscape and a way of deconstructing and reconstructing it as if perpetually trying to come to terms with it’s difficult personality.

Nivison’s works also heralded for me the best of Aboriginal bark paintings, with their cross-hatching and bundles of line gathered like sticks, tipping this way and that. The pieces Remembering Rain and Hard Rain are absolute stand-outs in the show.

It’s on at the National Trust’s SH Erving Gallery at Observatory Hill but be quick as it ends this weekend. You won’t be disappointed and maybe … it will make you happy.

John MacDonald wrote a piece on this show in the Herald recently. If you are interested read it here.

2 Responses to “Melancholy definitely has a place”

  1. Julie Stoneman says:

    Funny you should open the piece with a focus on black as I have just been having discussions about the use of black by young children in their artwork. My son when about 4 or 5 used to draw the most amazing images with black texta ….his lines were controlled and beautifully executed made more evident and powerful by using black. Talking to a Steiner education advocate today I was reminded how the Steiner philosophy does not allow children to use or where black…..as you articulate in the review of Nivisions work black has a pivotal role to play in not only developing a visual structural tension in the imagery but it also tales us to those dark emotional places that teach us about strength and connection with the power of the universe…..I only wish I were in Sydney so I could see the work……. .

    • carolebest says:

      Yeah, you have to love black. It’s so decisive and direct and I think children are perfectly capable of recognising that. I remember loving to draw with charcoal that my Dad fished out of the bbq – we were allowed to draw all over the sandstone flagging as long as we washed it off with the hose afterwards … a long time ago when children were allowed to play with hoses and fires….

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