Great article in The Age about Trevor Nickolls:

Destined to paint, Trevor Nickolls pursued his creative dream until the art world was finally awakened, writes Gabriella Coslovich.

In the inner city suburb of Bowden, Adelaide, Trevor Nickolls lives alone but is rarely lonely. The birds who congregate at his home, flying in for a feed, are all the company he needs.

“I love the birds, better than humans,” Nickolls says, in his sing-song Australian drawl, eyes rolling with delight, reeling off species that come to visit: speckled-neck doves, magpies, willy wagtails, mudlarks.

Birds feature in many of Nickolls’ paintings, particularly the dove, the universal symbol of peace. If you were to compare Nickolls to a bird, you might choose a bowerbird, an astonishing creature that collects vibrant, shiny objects from the forest – flowers, beetle wings, bottle tops, feathers – and arranges them around a bower with the delicacy and passion of an interior decorator in the hope of luring a mate. Nickolls’ paintings are flamboyant compositions, dense and elaborate as the bowerbird’s nest, bristling with symbols plucked from life – dollar signs, mining picks, mandalas, antennas, boomerangs, guns, Holden cars, the crucifix, the roofs of houses (which, in his words are like “jaws devouring the planet”), Aboriginal Wandjina and Mimi spirits and an upturned face, mouth open, in a seemingly perpetual scream.

It is the same upturned face that we see in Picasso’s Guernica, looking to the heavens in anguish and terror as if pleading for an explanation from the gods. Nickolls says Guernica was one of the first paintings he saw as a child, and even in reproduction the work had a profound effect. While Picasso’s upturned faces express the horror of war, in Nickolls’ paintings they represent the torment of being caught between the Aboriginal “Dreamtime”, when spirit and land were one, and the white man’s “Machinetime”, an age of alienation, violence, aggression and greed.

In documenting his personal attempt to reconcile his black and white heritage – his mother is Aboriginal and his father is Irish – he speaks of a broader Aboriginal struggle for identity and self, in colonial and post-colonial Australia.

“Dreamtime is my Aboriginal roots and philosophy, and the Machinetime is the present age we live in … I use my art to work out the balance between the two,” Nickolls says.