Jan Nel­son


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 the per­son­al expe­ri­ence of her own for­ma­tive years dur­ing the social, polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al tumult of the 1970s. Nelson’s mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary prac­tice, which encom­pass­es paint­ing, sculp­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy and instal­la­tion, con­cen­trates on the role of the visu­al in the con­struc­tion and expe­ri­ence of the devel­op­ing self. Both allur­ing and dis­qui­et­ing, her work’s dynamism stems from the artist’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with states of change.

The labour of the human hand, Nel­son per­ceives as a per­for­ma­tive act, expos­ing the gap between the con­stant striv­ing towards per­fec­tion and the flawed real­i­ty of our idio­syn­crat­ic human­i­ty. As Nel­son states as with all of my work, the mean­ing is con­tained with­in the process where the hand­made meets acute indus­tri­al pre­ci­sion. Whether it is a hyper-real exact repli­ca of a pho­to­graph or screen, an abstract­ed min­i­mal ren­der­ing of stripes on a wall or the inces­sant man­u­fac­ture of 3D objects, all are man­aged from a set of instruc­tions, fol­lowed exact­ly to per­form a kind of per­fec­tion, and more impor­tant­ly, to give rise to prob­lema­tis­ing the very nature of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. In act­ing out this exact­ness it is my aim to claim a type of wit­ness to the anx­i­ety and strug­gle of con­tem­po­rary living”

Jan Nel­son has exhib­it­ed in numer­ous major local and inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the 2004 XXV Bien­al de São Paulo, Brazil. She has received many schol­ar­ships, grants and awards, these include, the John McCaugh­ey Memo­r­i­al Art Prize at the Nation­al Gallery of Vic­to­ria and the Arthur Guy Memo­r­i­al Paint­ing Prize, Bendi­go Art Gallery. Her works are held in pub­lic col­lec­tions through­out Aus­tralia and over­seas. She is rep­re­sent­ed by the Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.



Available Works

Jan Nel­son

Walk­ing in Tall Grass, Betty, 2010
oil and liquin on linen
7653.5 cm

Jan Nel­son

Walk­ing in Tall Grass, Bag, 2003
C‑type photograph
113.6136.2 cm
Edi­tion of 3


Per­fect Illusion

When peo­ple look at my work they think they’re so real, they’re por­traits of […]

Read More

Jan Nel­son: Black Riv­er Running

Jan Nel­son’s ten paint­ings of life-size fig­ures hang sparse­ly in the gallery. Stripes of […]

Read More

In the Gal­leries: Five Shows to See in May

Black Riv­er Run­ning by Jan Nel­son Jan Nel­son grew up in the cul­tur­al tumult of […]

Read More


Lis­ten­ing to Music Played Back­wards: Recent Acqui­si­tions cel­e­brates works in the Hei­de col­lec­tion acquired […]

Read More


The sec­ond edi­tion of Mel­bourne Now will be pre­sent­ed at The Ian Pot­ter Centre […]

Read More