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WA Now - Andrew Nicholls - Hyperkulturemia

BY Art Gallery of WA | 22-Oct-2018
Andrew Nicholls’ WA Now solo exhibition will showcase his recent Hyperkulturemia series for Western Australian audiences. The major focus of his practice for the past five years, Hyperkulturemia is the outcome of a series of residencies in Italy between 2014-2017, which allowed Nicholls to retrace the 18th century iteration of The Grand Tour. A rite-of-passage that saw young aristocratic men complete their formal education via an extended journey to Italy to view the remnants of classical antiquity and the masterpieces of the Renaissance, the Grand Tour spawned the Neoclassical movement that would dominate Western aesthetics for a century.
Andrew Nicholls’ art practice employs a camp aesthetic to critique the power dynamics underpinning various artistic legacies. His works attempt to draw attention to histories of imperialism, colonialism, marginalisation and objectification that informed aesthetic tropes (particularly within the decorative arts) that we may commonly take for granted. He is especially concerned with periods of cultural transition during which Western civilisation’s stoic aspirations were undone by base desires, fears or compulsions.

We owe the Tour some of the most sublime aesthetic achievements of the 18th century, yet at the same time as it was informing this remarkable cultural legacy, it was for the most part undertaken by extremely privileged, spoilt youths who were effectively on an extended gap year, travelling for the first time free of their families and the oppressive atmosphere of aristocratic society, with few financial constraints. As such the Tourists behaved (for the most part) appallingly, drinking, gambling and seducing their way across central Europe, many fathering illegitimate children, dying of venereal disease, or locked in debtors’ prison.

Nicholls’ Hyperkulturemia works explore this disjuncture between the Enlightenment’s sombre idealisation of Classicism, and the repressed, yet unruly desires of the British aristocracy. The series’ title refers to the medically spurious condition of ‘Stendhal Syndrome’, allegedly experienced by Tourists overcome by the splendours of high Renaissance art. The exhibition works aim to evoke a similar sense of disruptive corporeality, while reflecting the semi-mythical position that Italy continues to hold in the Western psyche, as a place where stoicism and reason give way to sensuality, excessive emotion, and potentially-fatal desire.