Melb Now 2023
Jan Nelson is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice covers painting, photography, sculpture and installation. Her work is permeated with layers of personal experience, particularly of her formative years amid the social, political and cultural climate of the 1970s. Preoccupied with states of change, Nelson’s work unpacks the role of visual languages in the construction of self.
Black river running #13: 32kgs, 2017–22, and Black river running #14: 33.54 minutes, 2020–22, compiles and remixes Nelson’s previous works surrounding vulnerability, defiance and protest. A large-scale installation features an elevated rug made from hundreds of T-shirts adorned with activist and protest slogans, collected over a number of years before being colour-coded, cut into strips and crocheted into a four-metre circle. Designed to be sat and laid on by visitors, the rug becomes a domesticated and unstable embodiment of cumulative social causes through time – some just as pertinent today as they were fifty years ago. Hanging adjacent to the rug are a series of eight wind chimes, each playing key notes from a selection of protest songs from the past century, evoking the role of the individual voice in collective activism. As visitors walk through the shadowy forest of anodised aluminium chimes, they too play a part in this ongoing, collective cacophony of dissent. The titles refer to the weight of the rug and the running time of the eight songs combined.
Nelson has exhibited in major local, national and international institutions and exhibitions, including the 2004 XXV Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil. She has received scholarships, grants and awards, including the John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize at Bendigo Art Gallery. Her works are held in public collections overseas and in Australia, where she is represented by Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.