vestiges of now
13 May - 16 July
Opening May 12
vestiges of now is a new group of paintings by Tomislav Nikolic that extend his very personal and innovative approach to colour, especially the way that he invites it to colonise, not just the canvas, but the frame, the support and even the wall. Most are modestly scaled and operate within a chromatic logic that is particular to each, but remains part of an overarching approach to colour that has been central to his practice for many years.
The genesis of much of Nikolic’s works begins with his own response to artworks he admires but equally he draws on diverse thematic reference points beyond art history, including music, pop culture, spiritual philosophies on colour and colour association. It is colour theories, where mythology and symbolism substitute for science and truth that particularly fascinate him.
The connection to other artworks is often a conflation of aesthetic and emotional responses that feel strong and direct at inception but this inevitably alters as the particularities and requirements of each piece he makes becomes evident. What begins then as a conceptual conversation acts primarily as an aesthetic springboard from which the new paintings can launch.
It is the case that many of the artworks he admires, the philosophical positions he investigates are European. Indeed his own family heritage is European - and yet he is working almost as far away from this imagined centre as is possible. His family’s migration from Croatia to Australia was doubtless driven by optimism and ambition. For Nikolic getting back to Europe demands a different mode of orienteering.
The liberty that distance can afford allows Nikolic's paintings to more easily resist convenient categories. They jostle with the restraint of much minimal abstraction, preferring to celebrate colours’ wilfulness and physicality rather than illustrate its character. Colour is combined in unorthodox ways and the decisions that he takes about where the boundaries of the painting reside, negate the traditional notion of a fixed picture plane in favour of an object that exists in the round. The architecture of the frames are emphatic elements in the paintings' overall structure and are co-opted into the field of the painting rather than being an arbitrary boundary indicating the paintings' closure
Nikolic’s capacity to make work that is both elegant and rebellious, sensitive and wild is extraordinary. Often the paintings feel like portraits, some modest, some grand - their personality captured in every chromatic adjustment and structural decision.
Nikolic’s work has been widely collected in Australasia, Asia and more recently in Europe. Major works, both paintings and sculpture, have been acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria and more recently by the Chartwell Trust in Auckland.
Andrew Jensen, February 2016