[3] Sidney Nolan

An Australian painter, draughtsman, printmaker and stage designer. He based his work on the story of his life, contrasting dark dramatic themes with bright moods to create artwork with divergence. He brought a fresh response to the Australian landscape and the idea of the national identity. Themes of anti-authority and Australian history are apparent in his paintings, he changed the perception of the Australian landscape through modernisation.

He is known as one of the best modern painters in Australia, his innovation in modern art is widely recognised today. Sidney Nolan’s bold and poetic depiction of famous Irish bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly’s armour is now known as an icon in Australian art. Nolan is known as a risk taker which subsequently helped him to modernise the landscape and Australian history unpinning his greatness as an artist. Nolan was a reader of poetry and philosophy which also helped him to extend his paintings to more conceptual.

The example below shows a dreamy landscape. His use of abstraction gives the painting a sense of movement and the colours are diverse creating an exciting scene. I enjoy his brief uses of abstraction and realism combined, they elevate the painting and make it visually poetic.

desert storm.jpg
Desert Storm (1955) by Sidney Nolan. Oil paint on hardboard.

The below dramatic depiction of Antarctica is striking, his raw brush strokes and use of contrasting colours help exude the essence of Antarctica. Nolan visited Antarctica for 7 days using a helicopter to travel which I think enhanced his experience of the place, subsequently creating this chaotic yet poetic representation of the landscape. Nolan found beauty when just observing the landscape, this is apparent in his paintings.

“He employed paint mixed with oil and an alkyd gel medium, rather than oil and turpentine. This permitted rich surface textures, created in part by his characteristic scraping back technique. Nolan thus evoked the wild ruggedness of the landscape which so impressed him.”

Tate Website

Antarctica 1964 by Sir Sidney Nolan 1917-1992
Antarctica (1964) by Sidney Nolan. Oil paint on hardboard.

Sidney Nolan also travelled to the remote areas of Australia, desert and bush areas known for their enormity. The red and orange tones within the painting exude warmth. The desert shows isolation and bareness. But earthy peaks are ubiquitous and contrast with the white/blue of the skyline.  This painting is almost alien like a far away planet. Which highlights how untouched inland Australia is, I feel a true experience of the landscape when I look upon this painting.

“It combines documentary observation with visionary imagination, faithfully evoking a landscape whose immensity seems strangely unreal.”

Tate Website

inland australia.jpg


Published by


18 years old, first year fine art student in Cardiff :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s