Since returning home from time spent in Tibet, Nell has produced a body of work that is a distillation of her experience of the physical and mystical landscape there. She has depicted evidence of knowledge gained in the presence of immense geological forms, as well as the immediate and palpable physiological impact of altitudes that are very high.
Exhibition Dates: 21 November – 14 December 2002
A recent trip to Tibet has provided Nell with the face of her latest exhibition of paintings, sculpture and photographs at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Since returning home, she has produced a body of work that is a distillation of her experience of the physical and mystical landscape there. She has depicted evidence of knowledge gained in the presence of immense geological forms, as well as the immediate and palpable physiological impact of altitudes that are very high. In a place such as Tibet, one is confronted with the difference between seemingly permanent structures created across millennia and transient, precipitant phenomena -- both physical and cultural. Great mountains -- solidified laval eruptions, evidence of the coming forth of the earth's own molten, liquid core -- versus the gentle wetting of mists. Ancient culture and concepts of beauty accumulated over the centuries by language, art and religion versus fleeting rush of emotion or desire. The comparisons and contrasts between firmament and flow.
In this context, Nell's now familiar 'drip' motif appears in various guises: It is hugely enlarged as the only raindrop in a shower over a gold-painted mountainous landscape or calcified as stalactites within a womb-like cave. An abstract curtain of rain covers a canvas. Elsewhere, in a small colour photograph, liquid gold flows like a slow river of precious blood from a young man's nostril. This same motif that presents the human face as a landscape is repeated in a highly stylised three-dimensional form in a related work: a curious relief sculpture of the artist's own nose finished with a high-gloss enamel surface.
The drip is one of several figures in Nell's idiosyncratic lexicon which includes also the egg and the fly. A drip is a perfect spherical form elongated by downward gravitational drag. The most spectacular example of Nell's use of it is her 1999 The Perfect Drip, a great, dark and mercurial globule stretching from the ceiling nearly to the floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Like a bubble or an egg, a drip is a small, self-sufficient unit of matter. Symbolically, it may refer to many things: rain; a sign of sadness (tear); a wound (blood). And, like the seed of art, it is paint before the act of painting. By reworking her drip, Nell seems to be trying to get at some basic unit that is common to nature, culture and human emotion.
Nell grew-up in Newcastle where she presently has a solo exhibition of her Fly as High as Me at Newcastle Region Art Gallery. Earlier this year, that same work was exhibited on Level 2 at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 1999, she was included in the Primavera exhibition of young art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, curated by Rachel Kent. She completed her honours in visual arts at UCLA in the USA. Nell was a founding director of Sydney artist-run space, Rubyare. No Mountain, No River will be Nell's second solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.