Judo House Part 3 ( Bird as Prophet) by Nigel Milsom - 2009 | Michael Reid Gallery

Nigel Milsom
Judo House Part 3 ( Bird as Prophet), 2009

oil on linen
100 x 90 cm

Yuill Crowley Gallery, Sydney
Private Collection, Melbourne

Wilderness: Balnaves contemporary: painting, curated by Wayne Tunnicliffe, Art Gallery NSW, 2010

Wilderness: Balnaves contemporary: painting (exhibition catalogue), Art Gallery NSW, 2010, p 3


The birds depicted in Nigel Milsom’s paintings are doves and falcons. The first a symbol of peace and second a chivalric predator, the birds recall Judeo-Christian and subsequent cultural and religious meaning. While Milsom’s subject matter is important , his works are as much about the application of paint on canvas and with his experimentation with the lessons of early 20th-century modernism. ….Milsom begins with a monochrome background from which the image of a bird in flight emerges.

ln his series Untitled judo house part 2 2008-09 “two judo wrestlers function as a metaphor for the collaboration between Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque in 1909, a collaboration about which one of the artists was apparently quoted as saying : ” We were like two mountain climbers roped together ” The intensity of shared experience , along with their struggle to forge a new way of painting , is powerfully thematicised by Milsom’s casting of the artists wrestling (Hence the Judo House title for this series of paintings and exhibitions.)

“Untitled judo house port 3 (bird os prophet) 20Og-10 is named after l9th-century German composer Robert Schumann’s Romantic piano piece The prophet bird,from Woldzenen (forest scenes) Op 82 (1848-49).fhe melody describes a bird in flight and its choral sections allude to the spirituality suggested in the work’s title. American singer/songwriter Bill Callahan’s 2009 album Sometimes I wish we were on eogle inspired Milsom too ; exquisite in its moody combination of lyrics and music, the overall ambivalence of the album is akin to journey through the emotional equivocation of light and dark . Both Schumann and Callahan are deeply romantic, they use the symbolism of birds to tell stories, they create imagery with music.”

The suite of paintings …draws on the symbolism of the peregrine falcon and the dove, the imagery of which both art and literature stretches back to pre-Christian times. ….The falcon, a bird of prey and mythological symbol of power and speed , is often bestowed with visionary abilities. Milsom translates the different historical, cultural and spiritual meanings of the falcon and the dove as hunter and prey into paint.

Milsom’s paintings are not literal. Like Callahan’s emotional equivocation , the meaning of real and imaginary ambivalence is expressed in terms of contrast, which partly explains why Milsom paints with a stark palette and minimal tint given that colour is too closely allied with illusionism. ….On a flat black ground his bird-like forms shimmer in various states of abstraction and movement – like flashes of feathers or the furious flickering of wings in the dark of night – in the shining features of a bird offset against a dark compressed background. lt is there that the unexpected emotions that are possible from seeing things in the world differently take hold – flying, soaring, from the viewpoint of the skies- in the depths of Milsom’s paintings.”

Wayne Tunnicliffe, Head Curator Australian Art, Art Gallery NSW

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