Drawing from the tradition of art not as institution but as record, as history, Currie’s debut exhibit UN-SPORTS-MAN-LIKE revels in the body, in dance, and performance, as well as sport and manual labour.
CONTENT WARNING: racial and homophobic slurs.
Nicholas Currie's family hung their own work on the walls. Currie painted with his nan; his dad drew patterns while taking phone calls.
Drawing from the tradition of art not as institution but as record, as history, Currie’s debut exhibit UN-SPORTS-MAN-LIKE revels in the body, in dance, and performance, as well as sport and manual labour. The title itself references the axis of combination at play in Currie as a character: sports-like and un-sports; man, man-like and un-man-like. See Feet painting: a series of four black boards washed with white where Currie mixed cultural dance with, as he says, him “just slipping and sliding”.
“In a larger, white institution, the idea of trauma porn is so overused. With this, I’m trying to understand, what can I do to be post-that, and past that?
“Well, I can just exist.”
As a mixed Indigenous and Anglo-Saxon Australian bisexual man, identity figures as a touchstone in Currie’s work. In Body print, Currie presents a canvas alongside a video performance. He starts off clothed in a black T-shirt and jeans, spreadeagle on a white tarp, red paint and apple not far. He unties his shoes. He stretches to each hamstring, each arm. He jogs the perimeter and guards around, his arms up in defence. He unbuttons his jeans, folds them. He takes off his shirt, folds it, and spreads red paint over his body. He paints the canvas. He swans to each side. He eats the apple.
“This [work] came from … the question of vulnerability, and what it means to exist. And not even exist as a black person. Just existing, in general. Looking at cultural heritage, but also my being.
“I used to call myself a storyteller. With musical theatre, I was always telling other people’s stories. But here, I’m telling my story.”
The painting Back problems is all blue shoulder blades shot through with heat. I miss my brother mixes acrylic, oil and ink to give what can only be described as flesh-tone: the tone of flesh. The space is dominated by Fellas: four figures of plaster cast skulls and hi-vis shirts and sports jerseys—go Diamond Creekers!—draped over timber, propped on cinderblocks. Currie tells me the clothing is from his personal wardrobe.
“They personify—and are—genuine fellas I’d seen in my life, mirror-images of what and where I’ve been.
“There’s Hill from Grant Hill, Buddy Franklin, my brother James and my dad Rodney.”
Fellas. From left: Rodney, Buddy, James, Hill.
“When you play a sport—for me, probably, basketball—when you get rough—it’s an unsportsmanlike foul. If I go up for a lay-up and I whack someone’s arm or do something to intentionally hurt them, that’s an unsportsmanlike foul. That word kept on flowing into my head and it rolls so beautiful off the tongue. Yeah, I’m unsportsmanlike. I present as this man, but there’s some qualities, which are not typical, masculine Australian. While playing sport I was still in this body, but I was killing it. But I’d still be called a poofter, or a dirty abo. Like, oh, I’m not made for this world.
“But I’m still existing in this world.”
UN-SPORTS-MAN-LIKE is open to the public at Blak Dot Gallery (33 Saxon Street, Brunswick) from November 11th—28th.