Seated Figure with Bird is actually a self-portrait.
In watching the black and white 1960 film, I noticed the camera had captured Nolan seated in his studio in the same pose, furiously drawing paper work after paper work at his desk, pausing for thought between each impression, and looking up momentarily before commencing the next sketch.
I hope ours will be a new story of the why and how and genesis of great art.Less the retelling of a biography and more the capturing of an essence of one of the 20th century’s most influential and ironically, (given the amount of literature devoted to his life), under-examined artists.Back to the 1960 archive film – from the close shot of Nolan at his desk, the camera slowly retreats from his studio, resulting in a long shot that peeks through the door to his room while Nolan (still busy at work) narrates in voice over: “Here I sit in my shirt sleeves scratching away at a desk, and as an Aborigine leaves his mark on a cliff, both of us beginning a story of which neither of us knows the end.” At this point, the task of undertaking a definitive film about Sidney Nolan is completely daunting.I certainly don’t know its end but I’m inspired and excited to begin to mark the cliff.” Award-winning documentary director, Sally Aitken (https:// Tall), will helm a major new film on Sidney Nolan's art and life in 2018.Instead this rapidly sketched wax-crayoned figure, whose shape suggests an intensity of purpose, captures a moment of quiet study.
In the corner there’s an opposite, a bird in flight – a rush of imagination perhaps? This smallish work on paper, literally one of tens of thousands Nolan produced in his lifetime, came up for auction last month when a number of important works from Lady Nolan’s Estate went under the hammer.From this vantage point, I never quite came to terms with a celebrated painter like Nolan, with his deftly economic mark-making, naively distorted figuration, and his quirky interrogation of narrative and environmental myths emerging starkly from the harshest zones of the Australian landscape.To me, Nolan frequently seemed like an icon of Australiana, sometimes forlorn, sometimes telling.The prescience of Nolan’s project, where courage, heroism, masculinity, and folly are all encapsulated into the drama of Australia’s national creation myths, is to ensure the personal wreckage is lauded within the idealism of the pursuit.In this context, Nolan is a history painter, but an extraordinarily imaginative one, a painter of legends, a maker of legends, legends set in the barren wildness of the Australian plains and desert, amongst the scrubby farmland or in the wasteland mining sites.A documentarian of damned pursuits and failed enterprises.