Anything Just to Belong
NKN Gallery Melbourne, 10 - 26 February, 2016
For artist Adam Nudelman, the landscape acts as a refuge for his ever-enquiring quest to understand his place in this world. The grandson of Polish Jewish immigrants, Nudelman’s connection to his homeland was shrouded in secrecy and the unspoken of people who suffered cataclysmic trauma. As his heritage began to unfold, his path to express his sense of belonging manifested itself through paint.
Nudelman’s personal connection to European painting techniques and aesthetics has become of paramount importance. His understanding of the way pictures are crafted has marked him one of the prodigious talents in contemporary Australian painting. In this exhibition titled Anything Just to Belong, Nudelman's deep empathy for the plight of the displaced is subtly woven into the fabric of eternally hopeful, yet slightly melancholic landscape. A broken fence line in the Australian bush, the Claudian beauty of the highlands of Tasmania and ferny glades of South Gippsland all point to deeper meaning. The paintings are constructs of the mind but reference the real—with visual clues gleaned from his travels in the geographically related landscapes.
As always, Nudelman alludes to multiple meanings in his work. A passing glance will only deliver so much—the story is exposed only after you give yourself to the picture. The dense forests suggest uncertainty and secrecy while distant, thin, misty light offers some hope but is not to be relied upon—it doesn’t illuminate the deep corners and can’t always provide clarity or assurance.
His closed forests works are seductive in their referencing of Eugene von Guerard, the colonial painter who imaged brooding fern tree-clad hills around Melbourne with sublime antipodean intrigue. The same country would be investigated nearly a century later by the seminal Fred Williams. Now, Adam Nudelman has painted himself into the same landscape with all the fervour of an artist eager to explore and create human metaphors from natural beauty.
Signs and symbols are the great markers of our community—they are the artefacts of our society. But what happens when those symbols exist beyond the constructs of creating and keeping order? History can attach sinister or dark associations to the otherwise harmless or banal signs that are used in our society. Borders in the form of fences, gates, towers, wire, detention—all serve to exclude “others” and to protect our privilege while we wage wars that tear countries to pieces and drive people to cross borders.
Australia is a nation of immigrants; our cultural heritage is informed and enriched by those from other places. Nudelman's work allows us to reconnect with our heritage so that we may travel into our collective future in a more informed and sympathetic way.
Tony Walker & Ralph Hobbs January 2016