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20 October 2012 – 28 April 2013
Heide Cottage

Free with Museum Pass

Free entry

Kendrah Morgan

In the late 1930s and early 1940s Heide, the home of progressive Melbourne art benefactors John and Sunday Reed, was a creative laboratory for the young artist Sidney Nolan. In this conducive, stimulating environment, buoyed by the Reeds’ financial and emotional support, Nolan experimented freely in a conscious attempt to be avant-garde and ‘modern’. His background in the commercial art sector and an admiration for innovative European modernists such as Paul Klee, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso, had made him highly receptive to the possibilities of new materials, processes and imagery. Working instinctively and prolifically, he trialled a remarkable range of unorthodox media and supports, from industrial gloss paints on roof slates to unadulterated boot polish on card. In tandem he developed an idiosyncratic visual lexicon that was equally outside the mainstream, and, counter to the more common pattern of artistic development, gradually shifted from abstraction to figuration.

Sidney Nolan
Untitled (Luna Park)
enamel on board
© Sidney Nolan Trust

These experiments crystallised at Heide and Nolan produced his first, early masterpieces. This exhibition traces and elucidates the trajectory of the artist’s youthful investigations, culminating in his stunning Wimmera landscapes—paintings that were unprecedented in Australia in terms of both their modernist interpretation of the landscape and their execution in Ripolin, a commercial paint that allowed luminous and fluid effects of colour and surface. The project also incorporates a response to Nolan’s landmark ‘Moonboy’ motif by contemporary artist Narelle Jubelin, whose interdisciplinary approach opens a cross-generational dialogue that speaks to Nolan’s translation of the image into diverse media and contexts throughout his career. Jubelin’s intervention includes an installation of petit point renditions and a recreation, on the roof of this cottage, of the monumental version of Moonboy that Nolan painted in 1941–42.

Watch a time-lapse of Narelle Jubelin’s re-creation of Moonboy:

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