John Nixon

John Nixon

John Nixon (born Sydney 1949, died Melbourne 2020) is internationally recognised as a central figure in Australian art. For over 50 years, Nixon produced and exhibited abstract and conceptual works that extend the possibilities of radical modernism, across a wide range of mediums. Through constant experimentation, Nixon sought to redefine the possibilities of abstract and non-objective art through his many monochrome, geometric and constructed paintings, and his use of readymade objects and found materials, which he often incorporated into his paintings and installations. The twentieth-century movements of Russian Constructivism and Suprematism, Minimal Art and Arte Povera are key touchstones for his practice, which he extends into the contemporary moment.

Nixon considered his art both an analysis of form (the conceptual edge of painting and sculpture), and as a metaphor for life, and his use of form and material is imbued with a profoundly poetic sensibility. His approach is founded values of pragmatism and economy, as seen in his resourceful use of inexpensive an materials drawn from the everyday, such as found or discarded offcuts of canvas, wood, hessian or cardboard. In 1990, Nixon conceived the Experimental Painting Workshop (EPW) to describe his highly productive and exploratory painting practice, retrospectively including within this umbrella concept his very first paintings made in 1968. Known as ‘block paintings’ due to their compact size and blocky shape, these works were built from offcuts of wood and had a variety of surfaces including canvas, hessian and felt. 

In 1999 Nixon was awarded the Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, and in 2001/2 was the recipient of the Australia Council Fellowship award. As well as annual exhibitions in both Sydney and Melbourne, Nixon had an extremely active schedule of solo shows in commercial galleries and museums internationally (Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, UK & the USA). His work is held in numerous significant public and private collections internationally, including the prestigious Daimler Chrysler Collection in Berlin, and in 1982 was selected by curator Germano Celant to represent Australia at Documenta 7, Kassel.

Selected works