Nikolic’s capacity to finesse pigments behaviour, encouraging it, compelling it, inviting it to enter the most beautiful and at times boisterous relationships is a singular talent. He is something of a chromatic diplomat, negotiating unlikely détentes between colours all set to clash. This simplifies what is an extraordinary ability to bring about the most delicious and unpredictable unions.
For a colour revolutionary, there is at least one area where Nikolic appears to defer to more familiar, more compliant “structure”. Each of the works in this exhibition broadly conforms to what might be described as an orthodox portrait format. Each are vertical and their proportion, along with their audacious frames suggest “history” painting. What continues to fascinate me is just how much these paintings have a very specific and individual character. It is almost as if these woven colour essays are like DNA threads – coded chromatic chromosomes that together insinuate character and flaunt their various behaviours and personalities.
Nikolic’s treatment of the frame has always been idiosyncratic. Where a painter like Howard Hodgkin took his brushstroke over the edge as if it weren’t there at all, Nikolic is acutely aware of the edge. It is at the flanks of the canvas that we can see evidence of the accumulated pigments that collectively form the substantial interior. Applied in finely mixed layers of pigment, the colour accumulates slowly and ultimately achieves the kind of density he seeks leaving the sides to reveal the systemic bleed of colour close to the space between linen and frame.
As different in character as these seven paintings are, they come together to make an emphatic group. Though they share common structure, the range of colour relationships feels almost infinite; from the polleny interior of the yellow and the discreet and “not-so” blush of the pink works, to the laden willfulness of both red paintings. Then there is the wild green painting with its deep mossy interior and lilac edge and finally the rich plum interior that has Nikolic as close to Rothko’s romantic hush as he has painted ever. It does however have a jaunty yellow frame….
The last few years have been extraordinary for Tomislav Nikolic. This year he was awarded the 2017 Bvlgari Art Award in acknowledgement of how his practice has blossomed, becoming one of the very finest painters in Australia. Numerous works have been placed in the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of New South Wales as well as two pieces in the Chartwell Collection in New Zealand.
Alongside this, his work has been collected all over the world and he has had a recent solo exhibition in Germany and is about to have his first solo exhibition in Spain. The international response to his work has been extraordinarily significant with works being placed in collections in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, France, Germany, Switzerland and the USA.
Andrew Jensen, October 2017