Nell’s Who Made Who is an exhibition of sculptures, installations and gouaches which explore identity, the imaginary and the contemplative discipline of Zen Buddhism through the ever-present fact of mortality. The cycles of birth and death are not only the literal beginning and endpoints of life. The lightning-flash clarity of any given moment marks the death of our old self.

Exhibition Dates: 1 July – 24 July 2004

Nell’s Who Made Who is an exhibition of sculptures, installations and gouaches which explore identity, the imaginary and the contemplative discipline of Zen Buddhism through the ever-present fact of mortality. The cycles of birth and death are not only the literal beginning and endpoints of life. The lightning-flash clarity of any given moment marks the death of our old self. Each moment is independent of the past and future. Just as one’s identity and conception of self does not remain fixed, so there exists in this life the possibility for endless renewal.

The exhibition title is taken from an AC/DC song which ends with the question… "Who made YOU?" The repetition of the phrase ‘who made who’ co-opts a logic similar to the problem about the ‘Chicken and the Egg’ —what came first is ultimately unanswerable. The circularity of this problem undermines the validity of there being a supposed ‘original’ source. Along with references to rock n’ roll lyrics, Nell engages various spiritual and pictorial traditions. With sources ranging from Fra Angelico’s frescoes, to Australian Aboriginal art, Indian miniature painting, Zen Buddhism and western mythology, Nell incorporates into her idiosyncratic lexicon of signs—the now familiar drips, eggs and flies—a new vocabulary including gold, a strange grey ‘goo,’ reptiles and rodents.

A recurring theme throughout Nell’s works is the tension between attraction and repulsion. The sculpture Not Without My Tail includes a taxidermied crocodile’s tail - gutted, painted enamel-white and laid on a plush black velvet support. From the cavity of the once powerful, muscular tail leaks a viscous hand-gilded spill. The high-gloss white egg, Each Song Particular, bleeds gold leaf from a gash, gaping slightly, in its surface. In Open-ended, the epidermis of a slick black egg whirlpools into itself. At its innermost point we encounter a perfectly spherical pearl. The wound in Nell’s work is the site of the puncture, or ‘gap’ in consciousness that allows insight into personal trauma. The wound is where the inner and outer world coincide. The vulnerable and precious matter of the inner self is discernable in Nell’s sculpture because of the violence that the exterior sustains. The seductive, brittle surfaces or the obsessively constructed armatures are designed both to attract and protect. Nell has written that, "accessibility to transformation and beauty inevitably arise out of suffering and pain… they are, indeed the very same place."

The reptilian, scaled surface of Many Little Decisions is made up off 17,000 brass-plated upholstery pins that have been pressed into an egg-form, measuring 160cm vertically. Nell has written that, "The placement of each pin marks a tiny decision that has been made. Each seemingly insignificant action when repeated thousands of times becomes substantial and in this case, manifests itself as an object… Without exception each individual pin/mosaic-tile/element has its own personality, perfect in and of itself but is an inseparable part of the whole.” Referring to her own ‘scale,’ as in Fly as High as Me (2002) exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Self-portrait also spans the artist’s height. The artist’s name is written in a cursive script across the gallery wall. This work plays on the arbitrariness of one’s name in relation to real self. Reflected throughout the exhibition is the desire to reconcile independence and interdependence. The letters are  constructed by a seething mass of grey plastic mice. Each individual mouse is also representative of the species, simultaneously creating and consuming the artist’s name. Nell has also created her own gravestone in this exhibition. It is a personal momento mori, both coagulating from primordial materials and subsiding back into the earth. 

—Naomi Evans

Nell was born 1975 in Maitland and moved to Sydney in 1993 to study Visual Arts at the Sydney College of the Arts. She completed her honours in visual arts at the UCLA in the USA in 1996. Nell was a founding director of Sydney artist-run space, Rubyare. In 1999 she was included in the Primavera exhibition of young art at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney curated by Rachel Kent. Newcastle Region Art Gallery held a solo exhibition of her work in 2002 and in the same year she exhibited the work Fly as High as Me (2002)at the Art Gallery of New South Wales Contemporary Project Space, and travelled Tibet and Nepal to further explore her practice of Zen Buddhism. In 2003 she was selected by Maitland Regional Art Gallery for the inaugural exhibition of the new Contemporary Gallery, attended a mosaic school in Ravenna and was awarded the Rome Studio by the Australia Council for the Arts. Who Made Who will be Nell¹s third solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

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Nell Self-portrait, 2004; rubber mice, MDF, aluminium, acrylic paint; 180 x 343 x 7 cm; enquire
Self-portrait, 2004
rubber mice, MDF, aluminium, acrylic paint
180 x 343 x 7 cm
Nell Four Seasons & Skull Painting, 2004; MDF, epoxy joining compound; 47.5 x 46 x 15 cm; enquire
Four Seasons & Skull Painting, 2004
MDF, epoxy joining compound
47.5 x 46 x 15 cm
Nell Open-ended, 2004; pearl, enamel paint, epoxy joining compound, foam; 36 x 26.5 x 26.5 cm; enquire
Open-ended, 2004
pearl, enamel paint, epoxy joining compound, foam
36 x 26.5 x 26.5 cm
Nell Who Made Who, 2004; gold leaf, acrylic and enamel paint, varnish, epoxy joining compound, foam; 36.5 x 25 x 25 cm; enquire
Who Made Who, 2004
gold leaf, acrylic and enamel paint, varnish, epoxy joining compound, foam
36.5 x 25 x 25 cm
Nell Each Song Particular, 2004; gold leaf, acrylic and enamel paint, varnish, epoxy joining compound, foam; 37 x 25 x 25 cm; enquire
Each Song Particular, 2004
gold leaf, acrylic and enamel paint, varnish, epoxy joining compound, foam
37 x 25 x 25 cm
Nell Born From an Egg on a Mountain Top, 2004; epoxy joining compound, foam; 26.5 x 38.5 x 26.5 cm; enquire
Born From an Egg on a Mountain Top, 2004
epoxy joining compound, foam
26.5 x 38.5 x 26.5 cm
Nell Sky Burial, 2004; broken boomerang circa 1900, enamel paint, metal stand; 45 cm high; enquire
Sky Burial, 2004
broken boomerang circa 1900, enamel paint, metal stand
45 cm high
Nell Who Made Who, 2004; gold leaf, acrylic paint, varnishes, epoxy joining compound; 53 x 13 x 1.5 cm; enquire
Who Made Who, 2004
gold leaf, acrylic paint, varnishes, epoxy joining compound
53 x 13 x 1.5 cm
Nell Lookout, 2004; egg, marker, wood; 20 x 31.5 x 20.5 cm; enquire
Lookout, 2004
egg, marker, wood
20 x 31.5 x 20.5 cm
Nell Hard Rocks and Heavy Metals, 2004; epoxy joining compound, foam, sand, card, enamel paint; 16 x 43 x 31 cm; (3 parts); enquire
Hard Rocks and Heavy Metals, 2004
epoxy joining compound, foam, sand, card, enamel paint
16 x 43 x 31 cm; (3 parts)
Nell 24.10.79, 1979; acrylic paint on butchers paper; 32 x 24 cm; enquire
24.10.79, 1979
acrylic paint on butchers paper
32 x 24 cm
Nell Chrysanthemum Moon-Night, 2004; gouache on paper; 28.7 x 21.2 cm; enquire
Chrysanthemum Moon-Night, 2004
gouache on paper
28.7 x 21.2 cm
Nell Egg of Eye  Heart, 2004; gouache on paper; 34 x 21 cm; enquire
Egg of Eye Heart, 2004
gouache on paper
34 x 21 cm
Nell Happy Anywhere, 2003; gouache on paper; 21 x 32.6 cm; enquire
Happy Anywhere, 2003
gouache on paper
21 x 32.6 cm
Nell He Knew Every Magic Trick Under the Sun, 2004; gouache on playing cards; 26.7 x 28.6 cm; enquire
He Knew Every Magic Trick Under the Sun, 2004
gouache on playing cards
26.7 x 28.6 cm
Nell Gifts and Choices, 2004; enamel paint on playing cards; 25.4 x 28.6 cm; enquire
Gifts and Choices, 2004
enamel paint on playing cards
25.4 x 28.6 cm
Nell HEY HO LUCIO, 2004; gouache on paper; 29.7 x 21 cm; enquire
HEY HO LUCIO, 2004
gouache on paper
29.7 x 21 cm
Nell Goin' Home Can Be Tough, 2003; gouache on paper; 22.8 x 30.4 cm; enquire
Goin' Home Can Be Tough, 2003
gouache on paper
22.8 x 30.4 cm
Nell Blue and Yellow, Purple Hills, 2003; gouache on paper; 21 x 32.1 cm; enquire
Blue and Yellow, Purple Hills, 2003
gouache on paper
21 x 32.1 cm
Nell Im a Crawling Kingsnake and thas not all, 2004; gouache on paper; 18.9 x 26.9 cm; enquire
Im a Crawling Kingsnake and thas not all, 2004
gouache on paper
18.9 x 26.9 cm
Nell No Second Thought, 2003; gouache on paper; 21.3 x 29 cm; enquire
No Second Thought, 2003
gouache on paper
21.3 x 29 cm
Nell Pretty Vacant, 2003; gouache on paper; 22.1 x 26.3 cm; enquire
Pretty Vacant, 2003
gouache on paper
22.1 x 26.3 cm
Nell Ultra Twist, 2003; gouache on paper; 21 x 35.3 cm; enquire
Ultra Twist, 2003
gouache on paper
21 x 35.3 cm
Nell Private Party, 2003; gouache on paper; 21 x 31.2 cm; enquire
Private Party, 2003
gouache on paper
21 x 31.2 cm
Nell STOP, STOP, HURRY, HURRY, 2004; gouache on paper; 22.2 x 34.1 cm; enquire
STOP, STOP, HURRY, HURRY, 2004
gouache on paper
22.2 x 34.1 cm
Nell The Front Door, 2004; gouache on paper; 22.3 x 28.2 cm; enquire
The Front Door, 2004
gouache on paper
22.3 x 28.2 cm
Nell The Strange is Confident, 2004; gouache on paper; 22.3 x 27.8 cm; enquire
The Strange is Confident, 2004
gouache on paper
22.3 x 27.8 cm
Nell White Striped Land, 2003; gouache on paper; 21 x 22.1 cm; enquire
White Striped Land, 2003
gouache on paper
21 x 22.1 cm