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Beyond the Bale : February March 2009
February – March 2009 BEYOND THE BALE 19 ART OF THE COUNTRY Angus Nivison turned away from his wool-growing ancestry for the life of an artist, only to find that the land eventually reclaimed him By Matthew Cawood R ejecting the life of a woolgrower to be a painter was a brave move for Angus Nivison. Born into a family of graziers established in Walcha, NSW, since the 1840s, Angus didn’t find it easy to declare his passion for art, especially within the ultra-conservative Walcha of the 1970s. “When I left school I told my parents I was going to work in advertising,” he says. “That lasted about a day. Then I said I would enrol in commercial art. Instead I enrolled in the National Art School in Sydney and ‘fessed up’ later.” In fact, Angus’s family proved supportive of his determination to be an artist. He worked at home during art-school holidays, storing up cash and more. “I’d always drive back here to get the beginnings of the next work from the landscape.” Still, he fought against home’s gravitational pull. He flirted with supporting himself via a diploma of education, but two years of teaching proved to be a short chapter that ended when he won a Sydney Morning Herald travelling scholarship. The win allowed him to live and work in Europe and the US for the best part of a year. “It was not until that year that I had the luxury of working like a full-time artist,” Angus says. It was a while before he was to have the same luxury again. He needed a job to support his art, and found the place where work and art co-existed most comfortably was back on the family farm, ‘Yalgoo’, working part-time for his brother Grant. With his wife Caroline, an art teacher, Angus built a house on a small acreage within ‘Yalgoo’, and raised a family there. Walcha reclaimed him. Angus’s house and studio, built largely with his own hands, sits under a timbered knoll in the middle of a rural landscape owned by the Nivisons “ I was born here, and have lived here all my life. As far as I’m able to say it, this is my country.” – ANGUS NIVISON or members of the extended family. And sheep appear to be in the blood; the Merino studs along this stretch of the Uralla–Walcha road – ‘Mirani’, ‘Petali’, ‘Mirramooka’ and Grant’s ‘Yalgoo’ – are run by descendants of the first Scottish-born Nivison to take up land at Walcha 168 years ago. In 2002, Angus won the prestigous Wynne Prize for landscape art. “It was a sign of sorts,” Angus says. “I suggested to Grant that I should go full-time on art when the drought was over. He said, ‘Why not start now?’ It was probably the best thing he could have done for me. Otherwise I might never have made that step.” While he has since stepped away from the direct working of the land, Angus is still very much a Nivison living at Walcha – and he still enjoys working with sheep. Angus puts together a show about every 18 months. His canvases hang in some prestigious locations, including the Art Gallery of NSW, although private buyers take most of his works – an affirmation of his art that he likens to the vote of confidence other farmers give to Grant when they buy one of his stud rams. Inspiration still comes from the landscape, which he takes in on meditative walks with the family dogs. Thoughts are chalked onto the walls of his studio, from where the artistic process transmutes them into canvases. The art is ‘non-representational’; it tries to convey a feeling or an idea, rather than an accurate visual representation of a landscape. “If someone wants a view, they can take a picnic.” His latest work, ‘Melt’, takes its cues from climate change. Those familiar with the landscape might see in the painting the trunks of stringybarks stark on a ridge, or the rising bloom of summer cumulus over New England. Or they might not. “That’s the beauty of working in a non-representational way,” Angus says. “I would prefer that the viewer own the painting.” By adhering to his country roots, he has become identified as a country artist, but the stereotype does not offend him these days. “I was born here, and have lived here all my life,” Angus says. “As far as I’m able to say it, this is my country.” Angus Nivison’s work sells through the gallery Utopia Art Sydney. ? About Walcha Walcha township: About 400 kilometres north of Sydney, altitude 1067 metres Walcha shire: Covers an area of 640,000 hectares, total population 3,208 Main enterprises:Wool and lamb (shire holds about one million sheep); beef cattle Attractions: Open Air Gallery. There are 32 artworks scattered around the town, which have been created by local, national and international artisans More information: www.walchansw.com.au NEWSOUTHWALES ? ????? ??? ? ???? P????M??? ????? C?ff??H??? ??? N?? ?????? ??? ??? C??? ???? VICTORIA (Below) Walcha painter Angus Nivison in his studio working on ‘Melt’, and (above) inspiration still comes from the landscape.
Dec 08 - Jan 09
April May 2009