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Mike Nicholls I Time Out

See article in its original context here for Time Out.

Spirituality with a chainsaw

Mike Nicholls’ only concern about his show at fortyfivedownstairs? Getting his work down the titular stairs. But that’s an occupational hazard when your sculptures can be as high as four metres. “I’m not getting any younger!” he laughs.

Contemplation offers a rare chance to see Nicholls exhibit his recent timber sculptures, paintings and drawing in the CBD. Back in the early ’80s, Nicholls was one of a bunch of Melbourne art-school graduates who set themselves up on pre-gentrification Brunswick St as the now-famed ROAR Studios collective. These days, he divides his time between Williamstown and the family farm at Narre Warren North, south-east of Melbourne, where he has set up a studio, gallery space and sculpture walk. The farm is also where his sculptures begin.

“I basically do a drawing straight onto the log, and once I’ve got a drawing that works with the frame of the log then I start out blocking out with a chainsaw. But not too much… Then I start with a chisel, then move down on smaller chainsaw. It’s just a whittling-down process.”

Nicholls’ farming background and the time he’s spent working with Indigenous communities at Arukun on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula have inspired in his work a connection to the land and to a search for spiritual meaning. Totemic figures, hands, feet, shields and masks all figure prominently. “The idea of mask, shield, spirit: it’s the idea of protection, or just conveying a different face to the public, in a way.”


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