‘... my initial idea as a boy was that abstract painting was the way I wanted to express myself... But with things like Ned Kelly... I saw an opportunity to use my knowledge of abstraction in that cause... The Kelly paintings, really, are as abstract as they are anecdotal.’
- Sidney Nolan
Driven forward at velocity by a powerful instinct, Nolan was aware of the bewilderment felt by critics at his diversity of styles and subject.
It helps to remember in this regard the most consistent influences which inspired him constantly to challenge conventional boundaries and go beyond them: the poets Rimbaud, Blake and Rilke.
His faith in their ideas fed his impulse to travel to all corners of the planet with an insatiable curiosity to discover the extent of the unknown that his painting might encompass.
Some of Nolan’s most famous paintings are included, such as Boy and the moon 1939-40, the iconic Kelly masterpiece First class marksman 1946, Pretty polly mine 1948, Burke and Wills leaving Melbourne 1950, The temptation of St Anthony 1952 and Rimbaud at Harar 1963.
The epicentre of the retrospective however, is the historic conjoining in two semi-circles – echoing Monet’s famous waterlilies murals in Paris – of the multi-panel paintings Riverbend I 1964-65 and Riverbend II 1965-66, where we may become immersed in Nolan’s dreamlike return to the inner landscape of his childhood, made indelible long before he gained a reputation as one of Australia’s greatest artists. Riverbend I and II evoke the place where the artist’s grandfather struggled on the land, and as a policeman pursued the Kelly gang, embedding at once in Nolan’s psyche the refrain of a violent past and a deep love of the Australian bush.
'Although this discovery of truth about Australia is an important element in his work, I think it can be overstated. For Nolan is not at all a factual artist. He is, on the contrary, a man of active and disquieting imagination, and one of the fascinating things about his work is its unpredictability.'
- Kenneth Clark, 1961
A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition. Published by Beagle Press, the catalogue includes a major essay by the curator Barry Pearce and contributions by Edmund Capon, Frances Lindsay and Lou Klepac, with Nolan’s own eloquent words woven throughout.
The Principal Sponsor of this exhibition is Ernst & Young.
‘Ernst & Young is proud to be partnering with the Gallery on the Sidney Nolan retrospective. This exhibition reflects our commitment to the arts, both in Australia and around the world, and to the communities in which we serve. The Art Gallery of New South Wales is to be congratulated on this important and valuable exhibition.’ - James Millar, CEO Australia
Daily guided tours 12pm and 2pm, Wednesdays 7.15pm
Short film - Nolan in his own words Free daily screenings
Audio tour $6, $5 members/conc.
Dreamers: Australian Painters and the Poetic Imagination
From 16 September for six weeks - Sundays 10.30am - 1pm
The Art Gallery Society of New South Wales is host an exciting new lecture series in the lead-up to the Sidney Nolan retrospective. Dreamers: Australian Painters and the Poetic Imagination draws together a diverse group of speakers – academics and curators, painters, poets and composers – to reveal the poetic sources and aspirations which have nourished individual creators in Australia. Beginning and ending with talks and performances devoted to the remarkable imagination of Sidney Nolan, each week brings a particular focus to the work of a different artist central to the rich and varied narrative landscape of modern Australian painting. Each session commences with a keynote lecture and ,after a morning coffee break, the session resumes with a diverse program of panel discussions, literary readings and musical recordings.
Full program and booking details
SIDNEY NOLAN SYMPOSIUM
Saturday 3 November 10am - 3pm
Considers such themes as Nolan's poetic and philosophical sources, his time at Heide in the company of the Reeds, and his relations with the wider Australian avant-garde. This symposium provides a fascinating context for the deeper understanding of this remarkable exhibition.
Speakers: Edmund Capon, director, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Barry Pearce, head curator of Australian art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Dr Janine Bourke, art historian, Dr Richard Haese, senior lecturer in art history, La Trobe University.
Cost $60 / $50 members, includes lunch and exhibition entry
Bookings: Art Gallery Society of New South Wales
tel (02) 9225 1878 or email email@example.com
ART AFTER HOURS
Every Wednesday the Gallery and the Sidney Nolan exhibition are open until 9pm
Exhibition talks 5.30pm
7 Nov. Barry Pearce
14 Nov. Lou Klepac
21 Nov. Deborah Edwards
28 Nov. Natalie Wilson
5 Dec. DiVerse poetry reading
12 Dec. DiVerse poetry reading
Celebrity talks 6.30pm
7 Nov. Warren Fahey, folklore collector, author, broadcaster and performer. Australian bush songs and rare bushranger ballads
14 Nov. Libbi Gorr, comedian, broadcaster and TV presenter. Nolan, Ned and Naughty
21 Nov. Paul Kelly via video presentation. Thoughts on Nolan and new film clip
28 Nov. Stuart Purves, director Australian Galleries. Memories of an art dealer
5 Dec. Paul McDermott and Flacco,stars of ABC TV’s The Sideshow. Flacco discusses Much ado about Nolan and Paul responds with Nolan: beyond the wordplay and simplistic puns
12 Dec. Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir singing Australian carols and folksongs
19 Dec. Kim Cunio & Heather Lee perform the music of Hildegard von Bingen
2 Jan. Marty Murphy, writer and comedian. Is that a bucket on your head?
9 Jan. Patricia Lovell with cinematographer John Seale. Australian landscape in film
16 Jan. David Marr, author and journalist. Walking the Art Gallery of New South Wales with Sid Nolan and Patrick White
23 Jan. Wendy Whiteley Australian artists abroad and other stories, including meeting Sidney Nolan
30 Jan. Moffatt Oxenbould, former artistic director of Opera Australia. Nolan in the Opera House
Centenary Auditorium. Learn about the historical context and personal
history of Sidney Nolan.
14 Nov. Sheona White – Angry Feet
21 Nov. Ursula Prunster – The Ern Malley affair
28 Nov. Nancy Underhill – Nolan and the British Establishment
5 Dec. Jethro Lyne – Nolan and the theology of painting
Westerns: Outlaws and Outsiders
Wednesdays 2pm & 7.15pm, Sundays 2pm (plus additional screenings)
The myth-haunted, arid landscapes of Sidney Nolan have parallels in the Western film genre. With stories that centre on the life of semi-nomadic wanderers, outlaws and outsiders, Westerns often depict the discordance of the land, people, history and mythology. This series presents a rare opportunity to view Westerns as they were intended to be seen – on the big screen. Highlights include High noon (dir: Fred Zinnemann 1952), A Fistful of Dollars (dir: Sergio Leone 1964) and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Dir: Tommy Lee Jones 2005).
Film program details
Children’s Trail (also available online)
An activity trail through the exhibition for children aged 6–12 years.
Free with exhibition entry.
Australian Folklore Performance
14–18 Jan, 1.30pm
Using stories and music Gerard Cafe brings Australian legends and heroes to life in this interactive performance.
Children’s Holiday Workshops
Painting and Mixed Media workshops.
For bookings and information:
(02) 9225 1740 or firstname.lastname@example.org
K-12 program information.
Sidney Nolan touring dates
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
2 November 2007 - 3 February 2008
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
22 February - 18 May 2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
6 June - 31 August 2008