Main gallery

"I was first drawn to the smiling face by a Maoist propaganda painting I saw in China in late 1997. The painting shows a group of peasants gathering around Mao (from memory during the Long March). The oddness of the picture was at first inexplicable to me, until I realised that every single person was smiling. There was an excess in the painting: the strategy had been repeated to such a degree that it revealed itself, then collapsed." - Tom Nicholson, 2002.

Drawing on imagery of the smiling human face, as utilised in various contexts from advertising to Stalinist propaganda paintings, Australian artist Tom Nicholson's Melancholia (Documents after five actions, Berlin) was a meditation on the relationship between the image and public action. Melancholia (Documents after five actions, Berlin) was produced in Berlin during an 18 month residency over 2001 and 2002. The work consisted of five banners, each constructed using the image of a smiling face, which were marched through the city of Berlin in a series of actions organised by the artist. Video footage of these actions was exhibited alongside the banners in the gallery space. Melancholia (Documents after five actions, Berlin) engaged the relationship between an action and its trace, and how this relationship might function as an extension of drawing. This is partly posed as an art historical problem, about the legacy of modernism and the broadening of art into 'real-time' activities and politics. It is also conceived as an activist problem, about alternative systems of images, and the relationship between the imperatives of action and reflection.

Tom Nicholson completed a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), in Fine Arts and Italian, at the University of Melbourne in 1995, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Drawing), at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1998. Selected solo exhibitions include Documents after five actions, Kapelle der Versöhnung, Berlin 2002, After action against book burning (Two fragments for a disused Stasi office), studio exhibition, Berlin 2001, After Dili Action, West Space, Melbourne 2000 and Collaborative Project: A Syntax into Six Landings, with John Abbate, public office stairwell, 1999. Group exhibitions include The Office of Utopic Procedures, West Space, Melbourne 2001, Critical Response, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney 200 and Action/Recollection: Here the body is, West Space, Melbourne 2000.