Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sidney Nolan, Australian painter: The Slip

I can't say I "like" this painting, but it intrigues me. The painter witnessed a horse falling. The gully was exceedingly rough and precipitous. So much so that on one occasion as we were ascending in single file one of the packhorses lost its footing and fell.

The Ned Kelly paintings by Sidney Nolan


  1. "call me crazy but....this artistic effort makes me feel very unsettled and moreover, I now can't get the "falling horse" image out of my mind! I can't help but think that this type of portrayal, child-like type of painting or maybe it's folk art, who knows, borders on insensitive and is also very emotionally hard to view! I'm interested to hear what others think, anyone else care to comment??"

  2. When I first saw this painting I assumed it was a dream/nightmare -- I've had dreams of falling, things falling away, my horses lost or in dangerous situations.

    Apparently this really happened while the painter was serving in armed forces -- and I'm sure this kind of thing was not unusual.

    I ask myself, why did the painter paint this? Why this subject? What did it mean to him? I have to guess that the even left an impression on him, and painting the falling horse helped him process what happened. I don't think he was being insensitive.

    Lastly, did anyone see the (very bad) movie Last of the Mohicans? There was a point where a young girl was trapped on a cliff by some indians who she knew would torture and kill her. She looked right at her attackers and stepped off the cliff. A bad movie, but that moment seemed "real" and artistically done, IMHO.

  3. I agree that the painter was probably trying to process what he saw. As modern Americans, we are rather isolated from the real trauma of life. I can understand why he painted it. Often facing those traumatic memories is more healing.

  4. Sidney Nolan was not a folk artist. He studied art formally with the Royal Academy in Australia and in Paris. He was attempting to come up with an Australian art/heroic image/language and not a mere ripoff of European art. I guess you could call what he did a combination of Expressionism and cubism. His Ned Kelly was to be an Australian Hero, expressing the convict turned master of his own fate/circumstances/environment. Sort of a Jesse James of his day. Ned Kelly really did wear a helmet that looked like a big black square.


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