AWAY FROM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD Nanda/Hobbs September 2019
In the story of art past, the artists and the images that we so often remember are not the ones fixed to the trends of their time, but those who exist outside of them, who are able to somehow step beyond our age and to observe it from afar.
Artist Adam Nudelman lives and works in a region of south east Australia called Gippsland. It is a far-flung, fairy-tale region that has long existed beyond the cares and concerns of the wider populace. This is a natural home for Nudelman, who is attuned more than most to the region’s proclivity for primitivism, and its dual capacity for terror and delight. His furtive scenes are set on the shores of the human imagination, located anywhere and nowhere, but there is no mistaking the dewy, aromatic atmosphere of Gippsland.
Everything here is ancient and yet bears the fresh signs of creation. Earth, sky, and ocean are at once united in an elegant harmony where we dare not interfere. The rhythm of these elements becomes the silent symphony of nature, of which we are part but play a supporting role. Nudelman’s art is a reminder both of the intense beauty that surrounds us yet often remains below our faculties of detection. We sense here the aching remorse of a beauty that is slipping from view, of talisman to times we can no longer access. Underwriting the poetry of Nudelman’s paintings is a call to arms to arrest this loss. The soporific slumber blanketing this world view is a veil we must part if we are to retain some trace of this magic, for magic this most certainly is.
These are lullaby landscapes whose songs echo through the ages of eternity. Taking us to times before humankind, it is only the occasional presence of buoys, skeletal structures, and other markers that bear witness to past occupation, long since withdrawn. The markers are our only reminders of the here and now, anchoring us to the present time. In every other way these plaintive paintings of eternity exist outside of time. There is no attempt here to conform to contemporary agendas or fashions; Nudelman’s strongest parallels are found in the Romantic era where sublime landscapes of drama and melancholy became beacons of human sentiment. These poignant vistas are especially reminiscent of Friedrich’s Monk by the Sea (c.1810), but in Nudelman’s reimagining our Monk has been exchanged for the markers, which nevertheless project the same uncanny presence. The markers call out to distant people and places, long since separated by time and space. They sit expectantly in mute witness to the silent spectacles of nature that gently unfold around them. For Nudelman, an artist of Jewish descent with a deep-seated connection―material and spiritual―to other parts of the world now separated by time and distance, the markers might have a specific purpose. But he has left their meaning deliberately open and ambiguous―empty vessels ready to be occupied and give flight to our own dreams and longings.
While Nudelman paints landscape he is not a landscape painter. His subject, instead, is human memory and myth, and through his unpeopled panoramas he connects us with realms beyond our abilities to physically inhabit. These are, in every possible way, launch sites into spiritual ethers perceivable not by eye but by mind. Nudelman is an astute draftsman and colourist, and while we can and should admire his technique, we should not allow ourselves to be fixated upon it. The true significance of his work lies in what we cannot see. We must engage each work as we would a dream by firstly disengaging, and allowing ourselves to drift in and through its oceans of allegory. The visions we find within are, therefore, as much our own as the artist’s; he is, instead, a seer who guides us on our own inner journeys. Emerging, blinking, back into our world, we feel enriched, nourished, and fulfilled. We must, by necessity, re-engage with the material world but the immaterial world remains at the fringe of consciousness, poised to cast its twilight veil over us once more.
Lying just beyond our grasp the troubled beauty of these distant shores presents an irresistible lure. We long to fall into them, to leave everything behind, and become one with their elements. Nudelman reminds us that art―true art―is not a distraction from reality but the essence of reality itself, underscoring and giving meaning to all that we live and long for. While he provides few answers in these quietly majestic paintings, he is asking the right questions, and long may he be remembered for it.
Director | Gippsland Art Gallery | Sale | Victoria