Late last year Dr Thomas (Tom) McLean (pictured) published an article on some recent works of New Zealand sculptor Peter Nicholls. Dr McLean, a senior lecturer, teaches English at the University of Otago, but also writes on art for the US blogsite The Migrationist. Peter Nicholls suggested I would be interested in the article, and yesterday Dr McLean forwarded the link. The writing is briefly sampled in the hope you’ll pleasure in reading and sharing the full article.
The Migrationist: A collaborative international migration blog
Culture & Integration, Personal Stories
December 13, 2013 · by Tom McLean · in Culture & Integration, Personal Stories
My mate Pete and I had just left our Saturday morning coffee gathering when we noticed a tremble of dark feathers in the street. A female blackbird (which in fact is brown) was not doing well. Unable to fly, she had struggled through the grass and stumbled down the curb into the road. I picked her up and placed her under a tree; but this only saved her from cars or bikes. So what to do? Abandoning her to nature seemed logical but heartless. I found a cardboard box, and Pete got his car. Continues/. . .
Art helps us think beyond life’s cardboard box, and as I reflected on my blackbird encounter, the work of Peter Nicholls came to mind. Nicholls’s large sculptures are found in every major New Zealand collection. Bringing together disparate materials, his works are all about movement and encounters: set firmly in place, they encourage the participant (not simply a viewer) to make a journey. One must walk beside or pass through his large works to fully engage with them. His 2008 retrospective at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery was appropriately titled Journeywork, and it included long, stream-like sculptures in wood and metal that seem to flow along the floor. While his works show fine craftsmanship, they are not illusionary; they do not hide the effort that went into them. Nor do they suggest a simple return to nature: those elongated works might suggest a highway as much as a bloodstream or river. Even his most photographed work, Tomo (2005, Connells Bay Sculpture Park), is complex: is it the visualisation of a forest’s lifeblood, or a human imposition on nature? A sinewy marriage of art and nature, or a Formula 1 racetrack through an idyllic landscape?
Read the full article
Tomo 2005 (detail), Connells Bay Sculpture Park. Image: Peter Nicholls
█ The Migrationist is an international, collaborative academic/professional blog designed to promote public discourse informed by academics and professionals who focus on issues surrounding migration, refugees, and human trafficking. The blog is intended as a medium for intelligent discourse on migration issues. The intent is to bring this discussion out of academia and into an accessible forum for anyone who is interested in migration. The Migrationist posts weekly.
The blog was founded in September 2012 by co-editors Amy Grenier and Lali Foster, former M.A. Migration Studies students at University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom. They currently have regular contributors from all over the world and are always looking for regular and guest contributors.
█ Tom McLean’s latest post at The Immigrationist:
The Artist as Global Citizen: Cai Guo-Qiang in Brisbane January 10, 2014
In the mid 1990s I taught English in Xiamen, a coastal city in southern China. Xiamen (also known as Amoy) has a lovely subtropical climate, and today it’s a favourite holiday spot among the Chinese. But from 1842 to the Second World War, it was a treaty port. After the First Opium War, the British took over Hong Kong and forced China to allow foreign consulates to be built… Cont/
More about Tom McLean
Peter Nicholls was born in Wanganui, educated at the Canterbury University School of Fine Arts, Auckland Teachers’ College, Elam School of Fine Arts, and gained a Masters in Sculpture at the University of Wisconsin at Superior, USA. His sculptures from the 1970s and 1980s are noted for their amalgam of figural, landscape and architectural abstraction, and energized dynamics in large timber works. It was tectonic and universal rather than site specific. From 1990 it became laterally configured, river hugging and site/place specific, often interrogating historic impositions of order on primal land. Nicholls has numerous large-scale works in private and public collections internationally. http://www.peternicholls.co.nz/
Otago Sculpture Trust
Posted by Elizabeth Kerr
*Image: odt.co.nz – Peter Nicholls (portrait detail)