Jan Nelson

In the Flesh
, 2014
Installation view
Click to enlarge


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 personal experience of her own formative years during the social, political and cultural tumult of the 1970s.

Nelson’s major ongoing series, Walking in Tall Grass, is a sequence of hyper-real paintings of children and adolescents on the cusp of adulthood, painted in brightly saturated colour. Both alluring and disquieting, the dynamism of the paintings stems from the artist’s preoccupation states of change. The works are rendered with the gloss of advertising imagery, yet the children retain the vulnerability of their age. There are tensions present between photography and painting, the interior world of the children and their public presentation.

Jan Nelson graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne in 1983. Her works are presented in major public collections in Australia including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney; Monash University Collection, Melbourne; Bendigo Art Gallery; Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; GOMA / Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth. Nelson represented Australia at the XXV Bienal de São Paulo. 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.




Artist website


Jan Nelson

Black River Running

Jan Nelson

Strange Days

Jan Nelson


Jan Nelson

In The Pines

Jan Nelson

Walking in Tall Grass

Recent Works

Jan Nelson

Black River Running #8
, 2017
Oil on linen
75 x 59 cm

Jan Nelson

Strange Days
, 2013
Forton, high-density foam, MDF, leather, oil paint, liquin, artificial grass, artificial plants
195 x 76 x 76 cm

Jan Nelson

Break On Through (To The Other Side)
, 2013
Forton, high-density foam, painted MDF
90 x 400 x 245 cm

Jan Nelson

, 2013
Forton, paint
102 x 220 x 45 cm

Jan Nelson

Walking in Tall Grass, Marion
, 2011
Oil on linen
77.5 x 59.8 cm


Jan Nelson: Black River Running

From Delicious Line, 25 May 2018
by Ranger Thomas

Jan Nelson’s ten paintings of life-size figures hang sparsely in the gallery. Stripes of primary color underline them, recalling a paint job at a kindergarten but with the geometry of a Noland. The images have flat backgrounds of lollipop rainbows. The little girls depicted in each are garishly overdressed, too many headphones and gadgets, hats […]

In the Galleries: Five Shows to See in May

From Broadsheet, 7 May 2018
by Will Cox

Black River Running by Jan Nelson Jan Nelson grew up in the cultural tumult of the 1970s, but this series of hyperreal portraits reflect today’s intersection of politics and pop culture. In garish colours, millennial pre-teen girls express their identities through the clash of capitalism and an awareness of the system’s constraints. One kid poses confidently […]

Perfect Illusion

From Art Guide Australia, 2 May 2018
by Varia Karipoff

  “When people look at my work they think they’re so real, they’re portraits of people. But in actual fact, they’re not.” – Jan Nelson Jan Nelson is well known for her sleek, bright, hyperreal paintings and sculptures of children and young adults. Viewed from a distance, or on a screen – as we are becoming […]