Nolan- The Man and the Myth will tell the story of one of the greatest Australian artists of the 20th century. It will be a definitive account of
this extraordinary artist’s life and work, taking viewers on an epic visual journey from the suburbs of Melbourne, through the outback of Australia, to the pinnacle of the London art scene in the 1960s. Steeped in modernism, Nolan was an innovative, playful, quicksilver talent, frequently described as a ‘genius’ by the influential critic Kenneth Clark.
But he was also an elusive, enigmatic figure.
Of his celebrated first series of pictures, inspired by the outlaw Ned Kelly, Nolan remarked: ‘Most of the pictures I have done have a private side to them. The Kelly pictures weren’t really only history pictures, they were about a psychological state I was in.’ It was a statement he would never explain.
On the surface Nolan was refined, amiable and in his later years at least, utterly respectable. But he was also passionate, driven, mischievous and secretive. As Barry Pearce asks: How ruthless and how naïve was he?’ this ‘Utterly charming, urbane person’ who was marked by ‘a fierce will to power’ that ‘could transmute into productive anger’ and whose ‘love life reads like an airport novel’.
The story of Nolan: the Man and the Myth starts in the epicentre of one of the most exciting moments in the history of Western art: London in the 50s and 60s. A time of experimentation, modernism, and of pushing the boundaries of taste with artists like Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Graham Sutherland creating new horizons and new possibilities for painting. Sidney Nolan, an Australian living in London at the time, was at the very heart of this scene.
In this film we’ll hear from those who knew him, artists such as John Olsen, art dealers and taste makers such as John Kasim, Howard Jacobson and Germaine Greer. Alongside them we’ll hear from experts such as Barry Pearce and Edmund Capon in Australia, and critics in the UK such as Adrian Searle and Waldemar Januszczak, as well as museum figures such as Nicholas Serota attempt to assess Sidney Nolan’s lasting importance.
In doing so, we will ask who Nolan really was and how he became such a pivotal figure of the modernist scene in London; ‘the genius’ who ended up at the heart of the British establishment, receiving a CBE, a knighthood and with paintings included in the Queen’s collection. A man who left failed marriages in his wake, suffered the heart break of a doomed ménage a trois, the fallout from bitter arguments with some of those closest to him and the tragic suicide of his second wife.
The aim is to take the viewer on a journey into Nolan’s world, to experience it from the inside. It will take audiences on an epic and breathtakingly beautiful voyage from the arid splendour of the Australian outback to the rolling Welsh hills Nolan ultimately called home – all in search of an artist who remains so elusive to this day.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
NOLAN THE MAN AND THE MYTH will tell the story of one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Australian artists of the 20th century, Sir Sidney Nolan. Heralded as a ‘genius’ by influential art critic Kenneth Clark, lauded by Robert Hughes, awarded a CBE, a knighthood and paintings in the Queen’s collection. This film is about the inscrutable man and his lasting importance as an artist. Nolan’s images have become iconic treasures of the Australian visual language. His art shaped the consciousness of the nation and left a legacy of remarkable art that redefined the world’s image of Australia and Australia’s image of itself.
A film examining Nolan’s work and life is the perfect tool to reveal his complex life to fans and admirers, to bring new audiences to the arts and attract and educate a generation of emerging artists. The film will also celebrate the role of the arts in the creation of Australia’s cultural identity.
Philanthropy has always been vital to the development and continuation of artistic endeavours in Australia. A beautifully crafted film that looks at the man and the myths will create the first truly definitive account of this complex and remarkable artist. For philanthropic foundations and patrons that support artistic and cultural endeavours, this will be a valuable film for posterity that will have a long lasting usefulness for the community, schools, galleries and museums and more. This film and its outreach will help preserve Nolan’s story and his impact on Australia’s cultural history and will provide access for so many to the truly remarkable story of this man.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
This film will be the first definitive account of Sidney Nolan’s extraordinary life and body of work. The aim of making the film is to take the viewer on a journey into Nolan’s world, to experience from the inside, to surprise and inform. The film will present a dialogue between Nolan’s subject matter and life, the importance of landscape and location, the artistic currents that shaped his work along with the creativity and passion that fired him. We aim to build a revealing portrait of the artist via family, friends and a diverse cast of those who knew him and have insight into his work. The contributors’ dialogue will provide perspective and intimate testimony, exploring Nolan’s occasional selective myth-making and underlining his continuing relevance.
The film is being made with the co-operation of the Sidney Nolan Trust, which has granted full access to Nolan’s studio, largely untouched since his death, and its extensive collection of works. The production company will work with the Trust to incorporate the finished film into upcoming and ongoing events about Nolan.
The outreach of the film focuses on promoting awareness and a greater appreciation of Sidney Nolan’s work and his place in Australian artistic and cultural history. The film will have a national broadcast on the ABC with the full strength of ABC Publicity behind it. The film will be broadcast on the BBC in England at the same time. This will guarantee that a broad prime-time audience will have the opportunity to see the film. In Australia it will be available for schools, tertiary teaching institutions and art schools to record this program for teaching purposes. The film will have a detailed study guide to facilitate discussion.
Outcomes from the film will include:
To activate the uptake by art schools, galleries and art museums to use the film;
Underline the important role of the arts’ contribution to the Australian identity and culture for Australians;
Promote an interest in Australian Art history;
Promote the making of art as a form of self-expression and a way to maintain wellbeing;
Reach and engage new audiences and educate and stimulate a generation of emerging artists;
To support campaigns for more Arts funding from government.
We will measure the impact of the outreach by:
Broadcaster viewing numbers by city and State that will include iView numbers for 2 weeks following the premiere broadcast;
Publicity and reviews of the film both in Australia and in Britain;
Social media participation and numbers;
Audience attendance figures at screenings in cinemas, festivals, museums and galleries;
Download figures of study guide;
Tracking the collaboration with galleries and community arts organisations to facilitate screenings, and gather their engagement data;
Feedback from schools, galleries and art museums;
Engagement by teachers and incorporation into secondary/ tertiary curriculums.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
The story of Sidney Nolan will be well crafted and dramatically told, crossing continents and introducing numerous engaging people. It will reach a broad audience via the ABC and the BBC and will highlight the importance of the arts nationally. Our hope is that this film will help reinvigorate interest and support for the arts in the school curriculum and will increase opportunities for art practice and education in schools and tertiary institutions. We will plan a series of screenings for schools, tertiary art schools and art galleries. Along with music, art is struggling to find dedicated curriculum space in schools and it is hoped that this film will help reinvigorate interest and support to increase art opportunities in schools. We will plan a series of screenings for schools, tertiary art schools and art galleries.
We are in partnership and working with a number of high profile arts organisations to develop the outreach campaign. They include the National Gallery, NSW, Victoria & the South Australian Galleries, MONA TAS, ACMI and the Nolan Trust UK. These organisations will use the film in creative and strategic ways by hosting screenings and events and spreading the information via their databases. A website and educational materials will be developed that can be used in an education setting.