Sidney Nolan Unmasked: a Virtual Reality experience
- When 22 Apr - 14 May 2017
7 Templestowe Rd, Bulleen VIC 3105
(03) 9850 1500
New technologies are providing insights for researchers and audiences into art, and museums are increasingly highlighting the possibilities that digital and scientific approaches, tools and methods provide for engagement with cultural materials.
In 1945, in the shadow of WWII, a young artist Sidney Nolan, now one of Australia’s most recognised and celebrated modernist artists, made a painting titled Ned Kelly, ‘Nobody Knows Anything About My Case But Myself’. The painting forms part of the artist’s enduringly influential Ned Kelly series, featuring the self-made, iconic black mask worn by the outlaw and bushranger Ned Kelly in his final confrontation with Victorian Police in 1880.
The painting, cited by researchers as one of Nolan’s earliest experimentations with his abstract image of the outlaw's black metal helmet, incorporates a set of asymmetrical eyes and the bridge of a nose covered with red, yellow, and blue paint smudges viewed through the rectangular eye slot.
Looking closely at the painting Paula Dredge, conservator at the Art Gallery of NSW, and Kendrah Morgan, a curator at Melbourne's Heide Museum of Modern Art, detected brush strokes suggesting a full portrait lay hidden beneath the mask.
As it turns out, their hypothesis was proven correct.
Using x-ray fluorescent beamline technology, UNSW Art & Design researcher into digital art and virtual reality, Andrew Yip, and experts from Australian Synchrotron, part of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, were able to uncover the face beneath the mask.
Art theorists and curators have speculated about the image suggesting the face may belong to Nolan or Kelly. Some evidence suggests that it may be Nolan’s, based on a self-portrait he made while in the army in 1943, which features blue, yellow, and red paint on the artist’s forehead.
Now, with the aid of virtual reality headsets, the public also can view the hidden face. It’s being displayed alongside the original Nolan artworks Ned Kelly, ‘Nobody knows anything about my case but myself’ (1945) and Kelly at the Mine (1946-47).
This special exhibition is on display in the library (building I) at Heide Museum of Modern Art and marks 100 years since the Sidney Nolan’s’s birth on 22 April 1917.
Sidney Nolan Unmasked has been made possible with support from UNSW Art & Design's Laboratory for Innovation in Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (iGLAM UNSW); the Australian Synchrotron; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.