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Art & About: Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series

Some of the most iconic paintings in Australian art history are presented in Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series. Now, it’s the Top End’s turn to see the works up close at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT). And take part in an interesting record attempt…

We sat down with MAGNT’s Assistant Curator of Art Clare Armitage for a chat.

How significant is it for Darwin to be able to show these works?
It’s very significant. It’s a collection of paintings that normally live in the National Gallery of Australia and they’ve never been to Darwin before, and haven’t left Canberra for the last 15 years. It’s very exciting.

Tell us a bit about the history of these paintings. Is there anything about these works people may not know?
The paintings depict the historical story of Ned Kelly and the time he spent being a fugitive, up until the time he was sentenced to death. Most of the works refer to an historical event that actually happened, but some of the works he painted are just things Nolan imagined. They don’t refer to anything in the historical story, or factual events, they’re imaginings of a place or a landscape that no one envisioned being part of the story he was telling.

What else is Nolan exploring in this series?
Nolan talks about so many different things in those paintings. It’s not just telling the story of this one historical figure – it’s a more human story about what it means to be alone, what it means to be in a community, what it means to be running away from something and what it means to face death. A whole lot of really big existential themes are addressed in a very sophisticated and powerful way.

MAGNT are having a bit of fun with this show… Tell us about #nedindarwin?
We’re running an event on January 18 that has two aspects. One is a Ned Kelly look-alike competition for the best beard and best helmet. The other is an attempt for the Australian Book of Records record for the most Ned Kelly look-alikes in one place.

Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series
UNTIL 23 FEB, 2020 | Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory | $3-$10

SAT 18 JAN, 10.30AM | FREE

Artwork: Sidney Nolan, 'Ned Kelly' (detail), 1946, enamel paint on composition board, 90.8x121.5cm, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Gift of Sunday Reed 1977

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