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Creative Paddington: Peter Nelson

By Lola Pinder


Peter Nelson is a multidisciplinary artist and curator working across drawing, painting, video, 3D animation and 3D printed sculpture. Nelson graduated from UNSW Art & Design with first class honours and the University Medal in 2006 and completed a Masters by research in 2012 with an Australian Post-Graduate Award and the Vice Chancellor’s Excellence Scholarship.

The school and the area were important part of Nelson’s formative years as an artist. I had the opportunity to ask Nelson about his memories of art school and Paddington. He talked with fondness of the close-knit group of undergraduate and post-graduate students that would get together in one another’s studios until late evening. Nelson spoke of the UNSW Art & Design community, describing that ‘the people who taught me, both lecturers and other students, became the enduring legacy of my experience at COFA.’ He praises his interactions with lecturers ‘such as Mike Esson, David Eastwood, Gary Carsley, Paula Dawson and Royce Smith, alongside long-term friendships with a large community of artists who have passed through the institution.’ The group ethos of the school remained with Nelson. The philosophy of community and exchange come into his curatorial work today.

Nelson describes how Paddington was his introduction to much of the art world, ‘the galleries in the area; Sherman, Kaliman, Roslyn Oxley, Rex Irwin, ACP, Australian Galleries - these were the first pieces of the puzzle in getting to understand what artists did with their work’. Nelson’s first job in the arts was working as a bar tender at Rex Irwin, he then went on to become a gallery assistant. He says ‘my early years in Sydney were supported by that generation of galleries, dealers and artists’.

In his short career to date, Nelson has shown Firstdraft Gallery, Gallery 9, Flinders Street Gallery and Alaska in Sydney as well as internationally in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. He has completed residencies at Red Gate Gallery in Bejing, Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, Serial Space in Sydney and the Taipei Artist Village, Taipei. In 2011 Nelson won the Art and Australia Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award. He has just opened two exhibitions, the first at the artist-run space Organhaus in Chongqing and the second at HanArt TZ Gallery in Hong Kong.

Nelson’s work explores the notion of place and interrogates the representation of landscapes and cultural narratives. He depicts no-place environments that feature both the familiar and the imagined, lying somewhere between reality and fiction. His work includes a wide range influences from varying histories and genres of landscape painting, architectural draftsmanship to real-time strategy computer games. He describes his background in drawing and painting as important influences in how he works. He says ‘For some reason, representations of place have always grabbed my attention… I find them very powerful as coded statements about how we perceive the world around us, both politically, environmentally and personally'.

Currently Nelson is interested in sampling historic paintings in new media forms, eg. 3D Animation as a way of rethinking history and a way to examine contemporary life. Nelson is working on a project to open at MOP Projects in April. The work is a large scale animation that will present previous landscape paintings by artists such as Fred Williams, Paul Noble, Ni Zan and Peter Booth as digitised, remixed fragments. He is also working on another animation for a group show at the Northern Terrritory Centre for Contemporary Art in May this year.

This post is part of the Art Month Event Creative Paddington taking place on March 7th in conjunction with Metro Screen and UNSW Art & Design.



Image: from Extensions of a No-Place (Wen Zhengming), Taipei Artist Village, 2013, courtesy and © Peter Nelson