The muses have long been depicted in art and called upon for inspiration by writers, philosophers, dancers and musicians alike. Artists have portrayed them through their respective forms, and even today the idea of a muse permeates contemporary art experience. Be it by a memory returned, an intoxication, the illumination of an idea or the discovery of spirituality, the muses are said to make us aware of something within that we were not formerly conscious of, thus taking us to a new level of endeavour.
Tomislav Nikolic's series of works on paper are reflective of this process of elucidation. The front of each of the muses is black. Layers of almost transparent paint have been applied to the formerly thin paper, creating a sense of density and substance. The darkness is illuminated with colour, seeping around the edges of the works. Each painting is reflective of the inspiration for artistic, scientific and spiritual undertakings. The varying intensity of colour in each work suggests the subtlety of each of the spheres of influence that muses were said to control. From the seriousness of Clio, the muse of history and truth; and Urania, muse of scientific wisdom; to the more gentle muses of Euterpe, muse of music or Thalia, muse of comedy, each work has a vibrancy, an aura of light and energy.
Grouped together in a grid, the muses are separate from the God of spiritual light and purity - Apollo the Sun God. Seen as the source of all intellectual progress, he alone is not portrayed by a primary colour, but by gold. Resplendent in this role, he is representative of a contemporary figurehead; a politician or CEO. As the only male in the group, the work raises questions about contemporary culture. Placed so far apart from the others he alone is seen as the embodiment of progress, insight and revelation. Yet his surface has less depth than the muses, he makes a powerful impression, but with their darkness the muses offer intrigue. Apollo is dominant, and yet draws on the powers of the more ethereal muses for his knowledge. Channeling these resources, Apollo is simultaneously superior to and reliant upon the muses to maintain his status. This contradictory relationship forces us to examine where the power of inspiration really resides - does Apollo control the muses, or is he their pawn?
Melanie Flynn, February 2005