Essay for 2011 Exhibition Archiving the Nights
Archiving the Nights
In this exhibition Adam Nudelman harnesses the symbolic power of architectural forms that he paints suspended in the marshy coastline of Port Albert, in Eastern Victoria. In doing so he seems to be looking backward, coming to terms with his ancestral roots from the distant and not-so distant past. Nudelman’s art draws on a universal fact of being – that our experiences of culture and of family shape who we become, how we interact with the world, and contribute to our notion of identity. For Nudelman these experiences find expression in various forms that exist in his paintings, from the working class houses of Preston where his family laid roots, or Melbourne’s Princess Pier, where the majority of Melbourne’s migrant community (including Nudelman’s own relatives) were first ‘processed’, and walked onto Australian turf. The depiction of these structures as empty delineated forms contributes to their surreal quality as they float in the landscape, acting like markers of memory. Their lack of wholeness in some ways also references the nature of memory itself – the solid essence remains long after the details have gone away.
In certain works the mention of street addresses which have some personal, familial association to the artist act in a similar way – like a keystone or signpost pointing to past experiences, but leaving the viewer to ascertain what these might be. Nudelman’s depiction of Stone Henge, in ‘Where Once was the Place’ re-visions an ancient ancestral icon. The strangely undulating form of this monolith seems all the more otherworldly due to its hollowness. It has travelled through space and time, across the centuries and through the English fields to find itself lodged in Port Albert’s tranquil foreshore. While the vibrant colours of a fey twilight illuminates the sky, and Nudelman unifies the pagan with the poetic.
Alongside this dialogue with history and personal identity, Nudelman exhibits a purely aesthetic appreciation of beautiful form and innovative design. This is present in the buildings of architectural giants such as Frank Lloyd Wright, which the artist pays homage to in certain works. And of course at the heart of these paintings is Nudelman’s stunning portrayal of land, sea and sky. Sometimes his grassy foregrounds seem partially submerged, a liquefied, dissolved mass that allows the structures to float in a manner that defies reality. His changeable skies are painted with a lyrical sensibility, which draws on moving visions of the organic world, transformed through the painter’s deft touch. In this exhibition Nudelman’s palette has also expanded to include vivid shades of peach, orange and purple, injecting heat to otherwise cooler pictures.
In bringing the landscape together with evidence of society’s interaction with it, Nudelman has forged a distinctive and consistent oeuvre. The artist marks this vision or personal style with an ability to innovate within it, and push into new territory. It’s compelling progress to watch that excites and inspires.
Marguerite Brown MA Art History / Arts Writer