Mandandanji Neighbours 2008
Nilsen's witty new body of work has been inspired by the iconic imagery of the Andy Warhol's celebrity screen-print portraits. Nilsen has responded with his own glamorous array of repititious emu heads. Employing a combination of acrylic and screen-printed techniques including hand painted features, his emus appear as bizarre family portraits. Indeed emus are Nilsen's totems.
The works of the Mandandanji Neighbours series have been individually titled using various tribal group names in a direct reference to Horton's Map of Aboriginal Australia. Beginning with his own Mandandanji tribal name from South Western Queensland where Nilsen was born and raised, the artist links foreground and background colours with neighbouring tribal group names, as a form of recognising extended families. The premise being that emus appear and wander all over australia - as has the artist.
Nilsen, a 2007 Telstra Prize winner says, "Sometimes as I walk past these works, I find myself recognising characteristics of people in my own family...one photographer documenting my work in the Darwin Museum actually thought one of those big works looked like me!..."
The feature work, The Ten Goolburis, is a blatant reference on Warhol's The Ten Marilyns, harking back to Nilsen's ongoing interest in exploring popular culture through indigenous sensibilities.
From the artists' personal experience, several of the boundaries on Horton's map are incorrect. Most have since been rectified by Aboriginal occupants, the traditonal people of the area, which was necessary prior to Land Claims being made..."these emu portyraits are about crossing over boundaries" says Nilsen.
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