Over 1982 and 1983 Sidney Nolan grew increasingly interested in the possibilities of working with spray paint on a large scale. He was no stranger to the technique, having first used it during his time working as a commercial artist at Fayrefield Hats in Melbourne where he built a spray bay to paint advertising hoardings in the late 1930s. With access now to the convenience of aerosol cans in a rainbow of vivid colours, he completed the lyrical Illuminations series – that title referencing the long poetic text by Arthur Rimbaud that had been a touchstone for the artist for over fifty years.
A series of twelve large works, Remembrances of my youth came shortly after, and each is untitled, leaving open how we might read these works that present the artist in a darker frame of mind. This was a time of change again for Nolan, including the passing of John and Sunday Reed at the end of 1981, the closing of friendship with Albert Tucker and suffering a slight stroke while working on sets at the Sydney Opera House. There was also new energy through time spent at Bundanon with his wife Mary on the Shoalhaven River with her brother Arthur and his wife Yvonne Boyd and the opportunity to use the large studio there.
These sparse works, featuring faces with piercing eyes and a tangle of references to the Ned Kelly series, Picasso and Tucker, reveal an artist willing to stir up his past and allow new truths to emerge.
CMAG manages The Nolan Collection on behalf of the Australian Government.
Sidney NOLAN (1917-1992), Untitled, from the Remembrances of my youth series, 1987
acrylic aerosol paint on canvas
The Nolan Collection is an iconic group of paintings from 1945 to 1953 by Sidney Nolan that the artist gifted to the nation in 1974
The Young Nolan Project is a new initiative where an individual school is invited to work on an extended program and present their resulting art to the public