"My art practice explores how power is expressed historically through aesthetics. I am interested in the Sentimental as a marginalized visual language (yet one I feel to be central to contemporary culture) and as a white Australian of English descent, am particularly drawn to the aesthetics of British Colonialism and Victoriana. Through my work I look to tease out residual traces of Victorian sentimentality in contemporary Australian experience and am particularly interested in how the sentimental is manifest through nationalism. I explore these interests through drawing, ceramics and film.
Throughout my career I have found the medium of commercially-produced ceramics to be a rich source of inspiration due to its direct links to British Colonialism – the industry came to Europe via colonial expansion into Asia and was then used to articulate colonial narrative, (such as in Spode’s iconic Indian Sporting dinnerware range depicting imagery of the British Raj). Since 2003 I have undertaken ongoing research into the history of commercial ceramics production in Australia, England and Germany, including a four-month residency at the Spode factory in Staffordshire in 2004. Scylla + Charybdis represents the outcomes of this research, including ceramic works produced at Spode that have never been shown in Western Australia.
The exhibition also includes a series of ceramic objects inspired by familiar examples of sentimental ceramic collectables. These include Royal Doulton’s Pretty Lady figurine range (an icon of 20th Century ceramic design); Wembley Ware’s now-highly-sought-after Footballer (manufactured in all WA league colours for use as trophies in the 1950s) and their idiosyncratic Kookaburra garden ornament and Frog Tankard; the centuries-old tradition of Staffordshire Wallee Dogs (ceramic Staffordshire terriers designed to sit at either end of a mantle piece); as well as the ubiquitous wall-mounted collector’s plate. I create my own variations on such objects to playfully critique contemporary Australian identity and express post-colonial tension".
Andrew Nicholls, 2011
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