EPW Nixon panel 1Colour Music 2006-2010 panel 1 (of 28), enamel on mdf, Courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne

John Nixon (1949-)

John Nixon’s practice is an enduring investigation into the possibilities and potentialities of painting. Taking its own materiality and structure as its subject, Nixon’s paintings are concerned with the conditions of their own making. They are realist, familiar, restrained and most persistently prosaic in their methodology and materiality, insisting on the equivalence of all things and artworks. Nixon is often lauded for continuing the politically and aesthetically radical experiments of Russian constructivism, while also criticised for not being experiment enough (or whatsoever?). His work nevertheless compels us with a consistent code that is stubborn to change, albeit in the name of progress. Perhaps then it is through the productive confrontations between forms of art that the “lexicon of painting about painting” is extended and has evolved throughout Nixon’s multifarious career.

Since his debut solo appearance at Bruce Pollard’s Pinotecha Gallery in Melbourne in 1973 (the retrospective titled 1968-72 Un-exhibited, five years work) Nixon has enacted what he calls an “expanded model of work for the artist” involving writing, publishing, curating, establishing gallery spaces and design. In 1977-8, Nixon spent six months living in London where he exhibited at the small commercial gallery Barry Barket Ltd. On returning to Melbourne, in 1979 Nixon opened his own gallery Art Projects in a run-down office block on Lonsdale Street. While serving as director at the Institute for Modern Art in Brisbane from 1980, Nixon began to independently organize temporary exhibitions in a variety of spaces in Melbourne and Brisbane under the rubrics of Art Projects Annex, V Space, Q Space and Q Space Annex (the official site being Nixon’s Brisbane apartment). Nixon’s spirit of affirmative action and do-it-yourself improvisation initiated a number of publishing projects during the 1980s, such as the Pneumatic Drill, the single-sided one-page ‘newsletter of Anti-Music’ that ran for sixty issues between 1981 and 1983, and later the publication Material in 1988. Since the 1990s Nixon has maintained a copious output of exhibitions, pamphlets, and discussions within the practice of the EPW (Experimental Painting Workshops), which is an ever expanding repository of ideas and models of non-objective experiments into the nature of painting and exhibition practice, often articulated through an interface with another art form to provoke a two-way disruption (as in EPW: Colour Music 2012 at Gertrude Contemporary, Melbourne).

Compiled by Oscar Capezio

Updated:  12 August 2014/ Responsible Officer:  DHG Director/ Page Contact:  Drill Hall Gallery