Is Sidney Nolan any good?’ve always wondered. I don’t much like his stuff, while acknowledging that the early work was interesting. And I guess you get marks for creating an icon – Ned Kelly. The Kelly series is very compelling.  But, though I wouldn’t rate my views on the subject as particularly worthy or insightful I thought this piece in the Age was an excellent discussion of Nolan’s weaknesses – with some acknowledgement of the strengths.

And also an example of how good the contents of our daily papers could be if people of the quality of this author could be cultivated more – rather than all the usual suspects shouting and prattling on.

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7 Responses to Is Sidney Nolan any good?

  1. Rex says:

    Are you questioning the received wisdom? Next you’ll be telling us that we should be reconsidering the contribution of Ken Done.

    What are you doing to my certainties?

  2. Niall says:

    Never seen much in it, personally. Then again, I’m an artistic phillistine

  3. Nothing is more boring than another Nolan Ned Kelly. Talk about flogging it. Some of his early stuff is superb, with some amazing landscapes, but the Kelly stuff killed it dead. The one pictured is yet another dud.

  4. hc says:

    The Age article stated that Nolan’s sparse background landscapes:

    ‘ ….especially negate the story of indigenous Australia, in which the same land he throws at us as a symbol of barrenness is holy in every crest and furrow.

    Nolan’s paintings of the desert implicitly celebrate “terra nullius”, the concept of a land where there is no one, of a place that legally belongs to nobody until its sad emptiness could be given to the Crown’.

    I wonder if this is just not nonsense. Some Australian outback landscapes are pretty sparse.

    I just enjoy the mythical, whimsical character of the Kelly paintings.

  5. I just enjoy the mythical, whimsical character of the Kelly paintings.

    So do I. So did Manning Clark whose ambition was to do something similar with the written word on Australian history more generally.

  6. john r walker says:

    Haven’t taught for years , the worst day of the year was the day of end of year assessments , people seriously arguing for hours about whether a student should get b , b+ or D- … total tedium … things either move you or they do not.

    And obviously Noland’s character is not the same-thing as his images…. A strange mix of absurdity and the sublime works well as a image of an aspect of OZ.
    In terms of high European modernism , The Noland of the 50s was both very sophisticated and ‘post-modern’ in attitude. The death of scanlan uses the same structural narrative as Titians Bacchus and Ariadne
    in ways that would have beem unthinkable for a European.

  7. john r walker says:

    sorry the titian is here

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