Nick Modrzewski: Legislative Assembly (Nose Congregation)

Nick Modrzewski

Artwork’s Title: Legislative Assembly (Nose Congregation)

Material Used: Acrylic on board

Studio Based: Naarm (Melbourne, Australia)

Nick Modrzewski, Legislative Assembly (Nose Congregation), 2021,acrylic on board, 150 x 120 cm

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

I usually begin with a framework or prompt. For instance, ‘what is the relationship between land ownership and the body?’ This was the starting point for my exhibition, ‘The Knees and Ankles of a Landlord’. I then spend time researching, drawing and writing to flesh out my ideas and develop a visual vocabulary. Once I get into the studio, my process becomes very fluid and intuitive. My research gets thrown into the mix with the paint and clay and whatever else I’m working with. I always let the materials guide me.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Slippery nose chorus.

Could you share with us some insights on your recent work Legislative Assembly’ (Nose Congregation) (2021)? Is there any particular story behind this new painting?

This painting is about an imagined meeting of bureaucrats and lawmakers. The meeting happens at night, in a clandestine setting (probably with medieval overtones), where whispered discussions take place by candlelight. What starts as a rational exercise – draft bills are tabled, legislators debate – soon descends into a rambunctious muddle of body parts and carnivalesque activities. Amidst the chaos, arms stretch and wind impossibly around candelabras, while noses wander around the room, slipping and sliding all over the place. The body is no longer a cohesive whole, but a loose congregation – unstable, incoherent, and quite wobbly.

Your artistic language seems to have a smart fascination into law terminology (e.g ‘The Recruitment of a Senior Associate’, ‘Commission Regulation No. 2257/94 Laying Down Quality Standards of Bananas’). How does the law environment manage to become an inspiring source for your painting compositions?

I work as a barrister, so I am constantly exposed to legal environments. Whether I am investigating a contract between corporations or a fraudulent bank transaction, I am immersed in different regulatory landscapes daily. My journeys through these “lawscapes” often feel dizzyingly complicated, requiring me to navigate legislation, court cases and clients’ instructions. In my art practice, I unravel some of my experiences in the law. The analytical and sometimes bureaucratic legal world forms a counterpoint to my intuitive and material-driven studio practice. But the law is not just all ‘analysis’ and ‘rationality’. It’s also about people. It’s about bodies and boundaries and greed and drama and pretty much the full spectrum of human emotion. All of this finds its way into my work.

Your imagery incorporates an intensively creative presence of art practices; do you feel your painting outcomes flirt more with abstract or more figurative attributes?

‘Flirt’ is a good word. I do like to flirt and flitter between abstraction and figuration. I would never make a purely abstract painting, but I also don’t consider myself a figurative artist. I’m not so much interested in depicting specific individuals as I am in showing bodies enmeshed in various scenarios and transactions. So, for a recent exhibition called ‘The Plaintiff’s Third Face’, I made a series of sculptural masks and paintings responding to the idea of role-playing within the law. There are faces and body parts sliding in and out of recognition, but they are always embedded within these abstracted worlds. The figures are like props which I use to explore this overarching idea about how the law casts us all as characters in an elaborate legal fiction.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

I have a studio at my home in Newport, Naarm (Melbourne, Australia) which I share with my partner, Nabilah Nordin. We treat the whole house as a studio. Each room is a place to research or test ideas for future exhibitions. We’ve painted the walls and made sculptures for the door handles and light-fittings. There are masks attached to the gum trees in the garden and many heads and canvases scattered about. We’re in the process of building a new studio in our garden.

Which are your plans for the near future?

I am currently preparing for a solo booth with Discordia gallery at the Melbourne Art Fair in February. Later in the year I have a show at Watch This Space in Mparntwe/Alice Springs, and I’m making a large public sculpture for Contour in Canberra in October. I’m also co-curating an exhibition about art and law with artist/curator, Jack Tan at the La Trobe Art Institute in Bendigo.

Additional Paintings

Nick Modrzewski, The Evening of the Legislative Assembly (Face Swap), 2021,acrylic on board with powder coated welded steel frame, 185 x 151 cm
Nick Modrzewski, The Face of Melted Candles (After a Night of Mischievous Legislative Activity), 2021,mouldable plastic, oil-based pigment, candles, epoxy resin glue, 20 x 22 x 9 cm
Nick Modrzewski, Slug Audit, 2021, acrylic on board, 130 x 110 cm
Nick Modrzewski, The Face of the Wronged Complainant, 2021, mouldable plastic, spray paint, oil based pigment, paper, coffee, epoxy resin glue, 22 x 23 x 11 cm
Nick Modrzewski, The Face of the Pronounced Accuser, 2021, acrylic on board with powder coated welded steel frame, 159 x 146 cm


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