Born Melbourne, Australia 1955
Lives and works in Melbourne
Jan Nelson’s works exploit emotional, textural and chromatic intensity, oscillating between fear and power, complacency and dissent. Layered within the artist’s work is the personal experience of her formative years during the social, political and cultural tumult of the 1960s and 70s.
Nelson’s multi-disciplinary practice encompasses sculpture, photography and installation yet she is best known for her highly articulated paintings that concentrate deeply on the role of the visual in the construction and experience of the adolescent self. Both alluring and disquieting, the dynamism of her paintings stems from the artist’s preoccupation with states of change. The works are rendered with the gloss of hyper-real advertising imagery, yet the children retain the vulnerability of their age and are often set against dramatic hand-painted backdrops that culminate in an intense vibrational pull between abstraction and figuration. Here they present tensions between digital photography and painting, the interior world of children and their public presentation.
The labour of the human hand, Nelson perceives as a performative act, exposing the gap between the constant striving towards digitized perfection and the flawed reality of our idiosyncratic humanity. As Nelson states “as with all of my work, the meaning is contained within the process where the handmade meets acute industrial precision. Whether it is a hyper-real replica of a photograph or screen, an abstracted minimal rendering of stripes on a wall or the incessant casting of 3D objects, all are managed from a set of instructions, followed exactly to perform a kind of perfection, and more importantly, to give rise to problematising the very nature of representation. In acting out this exactness I aim to claim a type of witness to the anxiety and struggle of contemporary living”
Jan Nelson completed undergraduate studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. She obtained her PhD from Deakin University in 2019.
Her works are presented in major public collections in Australia including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; GOMA/Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, Monash University Collection, Melbourne; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne;. Nelson represented Australia at the XXV Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil. In 2004 she was the recipient of the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize at the National Gallery of Victoria and in 2009 she won the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery