Review: Mini Monograph series edited by Natalie King
The Mini Monograph series celebrates the work of contemporary Australian women artists. Artist Nell is explored in Book 3, and Book 5 showcases artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye.
Celebrating the work of contemporary Australian women artists, the Mini Monograph series showcases images from an individual artist’s oeuvre along with an essay by a prominent author working in a parallel field. Mindfully presented using single image pages or paired to form a conversation, the books present as a meditation on a particular artist’s creative life.
Book 3 of the series showcases the work of Nell, a Sydney artist born in Maitland NSW, 1975. Nell’s artistic practice spans a range of creative mediums from performance and painting to music, installation and text. Using signature motifs such as the egg shape and the drip to flames and lightning bolts, Nell explores her passion for the rock ‘n’ roll music of her youth to the contemplative life of Zen Buddhism: these dichotomies adding both tension and reflective of a wry humour.
In his essay for the book, the singer, songwriter, author and co-founder of the successful late 1970s rock group The Go-Betweens, Robert Forster, suggests that the ‘boldness and directness and humour and questing spirituality,’ [expressed through her art is] ‘found in the best rock ‘n’ roll’.
The first work of the book, Unlimited Radiance, (2001), made from sequins, pins, acrylic on cork and mounted on MDF, is a large-scale wall installation depicting a sunset reflected across water. The image consists of 20,000 sequins and references, among other things, the glam rock era of the 1970s. Silver, gold, yellow, orange and red sequins that would ripple in the breeze of an industrial fan in a gallery setting take on a different aspect as a still image. Through contemplation however, the scene quietly reveals the beauty and power of a moment soon lost.
The Perfect Drip, (1999), made from enamel on fibreglass, polyurethane foam, wood and polyvinyl chloride pipe, also contemplates these temporal themes that reoccur throughout Nell’s work. Suspended in the moment, this large-scale sculptural installation in silver emulates a liquid metal oozing from the gallery ceiling in one enormous drop; forever captured in the moment. There is a quiet humour in this work’s gravity defying feat as much as its ability to cause one to pause for deeper contemplation at the passing of time, like a drop, goes unnoticed.