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May 15, 2021

Portraits of mortality on show at Tweed gallery

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Rod McNicol, Jack, 2006, from the series A portrait revisited: 1986–2006, pigment ink-jet print, 45 x 30cm (each image).
Rod McNicol, Jack, 2006, from the series A portrait revisited: 1986–2006, pigment ink-jet print, 45 x 30cm (each image).

The first survey exhibition of work by acclaimed Melbourne portrait photographer Rod McNicol is currently showing at Tweed Regional Gallery till 24 May.

The Monash Gallery of Art travelling exhibition Rod McNicol: memento mori highlights the work of one of Australia’s most enduring and important portrait photographers, according to gallery director Susi Muddiman.

Ms Muddiman said the gallery has had a long association with Rod McNicol through one of its major initiatives, the biennial Olive Cotton Award for photographic portraiture in which the photographer has been a finalist many times.

His work Eddi Stileto (1985 + 2005) was acquired for the gallery’s collection through the Olive Cotton Award in 2005.

The exhibition, Ms Muddiman says, comprises works spanning more than three decades, ‘providing a compelling account of an artist deeply connected to his community and the genre of portraiture’.

From his earliest black-and-white prints through to recent colour portraits, McNicol uses photography to highlight ideas of mortality.

Exhibition curator Stephen Zagala said ‘like Richard Avedon, McNicol uses uniform lighting and monochrome backdrops to isolate his sitters and foreground their physical vulnerability: these matter-of-fact portraits function as witnesses to the inescapable passing of time’.

Collection of the artist Rod McNicol, Kirat, 2011, from the series Newcomers to my village, pigment ink-jet print 60 x 45cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Rod McNicol, Kirat, 2011, from the series Newcomers to my village, pigment ink-jet print 60 x 45cm. Courtesy of the artist.

The exhibition liner notes say: ‘McNicol has photographed hundreds of people with relentless uniformity. They all look at the camera with a similar expression against the soft hue of McNicol’s studio backdrop, bathed in the uniform light of clerestories and skylights. Each body occupies precisely the same part of the photographic frame’.

His work has earned a string of prestigious awards including the National Photographic Portrait Prize (2012) and the Australian Photographic Portrait Prize (2004). McNicol recently won the inaugural DUO Magazine Percival Photographic Portrait Prize for his portrait of actor Jack Charles.

Born in Melbourne in 1946, McNicol attended the Prahran College where he studied photography during the early 1970s. His work is held in many major collections, including Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris), Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, National Library (Canberra), Monash Gallery of Art (Melbourne) and Tweed Regional Gallery.


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