SAMSTAG ALUMNI 2010

Michelle Nikou
Born 1967, Adelaide, South Australia

Though they are indisputably of our time, Michelle Nikou's strange objects hark back elusively to some other era, as if in search of a language and spirit that has been lost to the contemporary world, or that, like mythic treasure buried in the prehistoric earth, can only be recovered through arcane means and God's luck. 

There is something about the subtle, yet deliberate material qualities Nikou invests in her work that signal her alchemical instincts. Defined principally by an enduring engagement with casting hot metals, such as bronze and lead, Nikou's art nonetheless follows multiple trajectories in choice of media. She inventively pursues ideas in company with her materials, wherever her curiosity leads. 

As a result of progressive experimentation her work also has evolved in its sophistication and vocabulary, with a discernable discourse now in play of poetics, aesthetics and forms. It is a personal discourse that ruminates inwardly, and her work can seem conceptually opaque and inscrutable in intent, despite being predominantly objective in character. We find two–dimensional imagery, for example, co–mingling with metal objects, or drawings that may function as doodling precursors to jewellery and sculptural ceramics, all of it rich with narrative ironies. We also see her working with fabrics, these woven in grids and as tissue-box tea cosies, or painstakingly stitched, filled and sewn with solemn Shakespearean words. 

At times the work appears banal: wilfully so. And perhaps its evident humour reflects the artist's often–quirky choice of subject, much of this drawn from the stuff of everyday. But at the heart of Nikou's practice is her profound engagement with metals, the ancient material that she manipulates with masterful nonchalance, yet control, combining expression with concept, aesthetics and calculated effect.

In Nikou's theatre of enigmatic forms it is the commonplace things – snaky-doorstops, 'povera' spoons and potatoes – that are distinguished by their transformation into something remarkable and mysterious. These objects seem animated by history's ghosts of village shaman, artisans and witches, and they are surely secret repositories for occult talismans and potent runes. Or perhaps, instead, they are the funerary relics of noble warrior kings, dug from the pit of ages, molten and burned.

Text by Ross Wolfe, September 2009

2017 Michelle Nikou: a e i o u

2010 Anne & Gordon Samstag International Visual Arts Scholarship
2010 Guest Student, Braunschweig University of Art, Germany
2005 Master of Visual Arts, University of South Australia, Adelaide
1990 Graduate Diploma of Arts (Visual Arts), University of South Australia, Adelaide
1989 Bachelor of Design (Ceramics), University of South Australia, Adelaide