Nigel Lendon is an Adelaide born artist, curator, art historian and academic. Starting out in the field of medicine (1962-65) a young Lendon decided half way through the degree that it was not the career path for him. The following year he applied to the South Australian School of Art to undertake a Diploma Fine Art in Sculpture (1966-69).
As a student Lendon made a name for himself in 1968 when one of his works was selected for the highly celebrated exhibition The Field, which was curated especially for the gala opening of the resited National Gallery of Victoria.
This was a highly important time for Australian art and artists, particular those like Lendon who were working in minimalism and influenced by American philosophies and approaches to the movement.
Lendon’s early works were often composed of modular units which gave off quite a sterile formulaic feeling, possibly informed by his early interactions with the medical field. He also maintained the aesthetic that little to no trace of the human hand should exist on a finished sculpture or painting, resulting in immaculate surfaces.
Nigel continued to exhibit and produce sculpture throughout the 1970’s in between teaching appointments; lecturer in Fine Art Gippsland Institute of Advanced Education (1971-74) and lecturer at Sydney School of Art (1977). He also spent a few years travelling through the United States of America and Europe (1974-76).
He had his first solo exhibition in 1973 at the Chapman Powell Street Gallery in Melbourne. The sculptures in this show were similar to Georgia (featured right and in this exhibition), in that they were small metal works, which could have served as studies for larger works, and took their strength from the sum of many machined components.
The most interesting development in these works was the incorporation of several metal pieces sourced from Yallourn, a coal mining town in Victoria. These metal pieces feature sensuous curved edges which line cut away sections, only these cut away sections were not machine made but created by the coal and water working together to erode the steel leaving an almost organic form. The small sculptures from this show are stunning examples of craftsmanship and the understanding of material. They are a celebration of the chance creation of the exquisite amongst the ordinary.
By the early eighties Lendon relocated to Canberra to take up a position at the Australian National University (ANU). Lendon has continued to work for ANU in various positions over the last few decades. His practice branched into performance art during this time and continues into his curatorial projects.
Nigel Lendon’s contribution thus far to Australian sculpture has been significant. His effect can be felt not only through his practice but also his teaching, curatorial projects and research.
Experiment with charcoal on paper. How many different marks can you make just by changing the angle, pressure or point of the charcoal? Using some rocky outcrops as stimulus, recreate their craggy edges on paper using the charcoal.
Research the town of Yallourn, Victoria and its relationship to industry and coal.
Investigate surface treatments for sculptures and paintings which mimic erosion.
Discuss Lendon’s aesthetics towards surface and sculpture. How much did his first interest in medicine influence his approach to sculpture?
Research the effect The Field exhibition had on Australian sculpture and art.
IMAGES: Portrait: Nigel Lendon (ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences). Nigel Lendon Georgia 1973. steel. 35 x 31 x 15.5 cm. Gift of Mrs Penny Coleing under the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program. Photo: Clare Lewis