Nick Drayson is one of the the most versatile and respected artists in Australia today. His innovative installations can be found in private collections from Perth to Sydney, and are particulary well represented in the Nation's Capital, Canberra. His performances have won the applause of the most discerning judges of true art.
Nick first came to the attention of the Australian art world with a special commission for Wesley College at the University of Sydney in 1982. By moulding thin layers of pigmented acrylic film onto existing or "found" objects scattered throughout the college, Nick smashed through the existing boundary between artist and artisan. This brillto headed west. But although Nick was eager to begin his new work he also knew it was important that he should not arrive in Western Australia before his plans were fully developed. Annabel Nowlan, who was then living at Bimbi, knew that Nick was adamant in eschewing any form of public transportation for his journey. She brilliantly solved Nick's problem by taking him to the Mid Western Highway, from where she knew he would take at least a week to reach Perth. Annabelle's plan worked. By the time Nick reached the west he was ready.
Nick had again decided to create a three-dimensional work using pigmented film, but this time he wanted to work on a large scale and needed something of a suitable size to support the film. His search took him to Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. After long and delicate negotiations with the owner of an engineering factory, which Nick immediately realised was exactly the right size and shape for his intended work, Nick embarked upon what was up till then his most ambitious project, the timeless "Precision Engineering, Kalgoorlie".
Always eager to experiment with new materials, this time Nick applied an alkyd resin film - a material he had been experimenting with in England. The film was applied over the entire surface but this time in only two colours- green for the verticals, silver for the horizontals. Nick used the technique he had been working on in England of applying the film as a liquid and allowing to dry in situ. "Precision Engineering, Kalgoorlie" remains one of Nick Drayson's best loved works.
It was while he was in the west that Nick began to incorporate performance into his art. His vocal abilities had been recognised at an early age when he was asked to sing the demanding role of "second fairy" at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. His voice was again in demand in Western Australia, notably for a sell-out performance at the Perth Entertainment Centre, a performance which is still talked about whenever Nick returns to the west. But it has been at Bimbi that all the elements of Nick's art have combined.
Visitors to the old homestead at Bimbi are well advised to enter by the western gateway. They will then be confronted by one of Nick's major Bimbi works, "The Pergola". To those used to Nick's earlier work it comes as a surprise to find that this piece is made of wood. It comprises lengths of cypress pine, felled from the very forests which are visible to the east at the foot of the Weddin Range. The wood was carefully milled to Nick's specifications by hand-picked local craftsmen, and assembled - using sharpened steel rods in a manner reminiscent of local "building" techniques - into a structure whose use of strong verticals and horizontals immediately brings to mind Nick's earlier work, yet whose subtle reference to classical architectural themes marks a clear departure from it. It will perhaps not come as a surprise to afficianados of Nick's previous work, however, to find that Nick has applied his "signature" pigmented film to the whole structure.
"The Pergola" has variously been described as "good", "very good" and "jolly good". The late critic Anthony Nowlan, who was closely involved in the initial installation of the piece, probably summed it best when he said in his typically incisive yet undersated way, "You know, it's not bad."
Nick Drayson has left his mark in many other ways at Bimbi. Together with Sally Nowlan he was responsible for "Shade House Two" - sometimes known as "Club Bimbi" - which is visible immediately to the north of "The Pergola". This is unusual in that no pigment was applied to the work, the surfaces having been allowed to weather in order to create a "natural" texture. The construction of "Shade House Two" was itself a performance, with vocal accompaniment provided mainly by Sally Nowlan.
Art lovers will be pleased to hear that Nick is now planning further works, also at Bimbi. He hopes to further develop his applied pigmented film technque in a new work inside the homestead building, tentatively titled "The Sleepout". He will also shortly begin a major contruction, "Shelves", again inside the homestead, this time in the pantry area. For this Nick will once more use carefully crafted pieces of indigenous cypress pine in a structure that will echo the horizontal theme of "The Pergola".
Nick is also hoping to find time in his busy schedule for more performance art. Who can forget his theatrical vocal rendition of an Edwardian ballad during the 1996 Bimbi Festival of the Arts, or his "Bed Music by Moonlight" - a co-operative venture with the Sydney artist Pepi Weinrauch. That Nick's matchless talents and peerless aesthetic accomplishments will again grace Bimbi, is surely a situation devoutly to be wished.