Stoking The Fire

When Nick Mullaly paints the figure, his works are described as poetic and imbued with narrative.

Words: Briony Downes

In early 2022, curator David Sequeira described Nick Mullaly’s paintings as like “soaking in a visual love song.” Referring to the Melbourne based artist’s work in Be My Once in a Lifetime, a group exhibition at Melbourne’s Fiona and Sidney Myer Gallery, Sequeira aptly pinpointed the dreamy intimacy Mullaly’s visuals exude. Often painting tender, figura- tive scenes bathed in a hazy palette of red, orange and yellow, Mullaly seeks to capture moments of action infused with a crackling luminosity.

Graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Fine Art Honours degree from the Victorian College of the Arts, Mullaly has been exhibit- ing his work consistently since 2015. Inspired by films like Brian De Palma’s Carrie, 1976 and the work of artists Edvard Munch, Tamara de Lempicka and Félix González-Torres, Mullaly is particularly drawn to their depictions of intense emotions. “Their work can be filled with romance or desire, but also present something more harrowing or haunting in their frankness,” he says. “I’m intrigued how things can be larger than life or flamboyant, but still remain incredibly real and honest.” Drawing and poetry also play an important role in Mullaly’s creative practice with each medium contributing to layers of meaning.

For his first solo exhibition, Hot Hot Hot at NAP Contemporary, Mildura, Mullaly explores his long-held interest in film stills and the documentation of action. “The exhibition is based on the idea that any moment can be frozen to reveal a hidden desire, a sense of tension and a picture within a picture,” he says. “To me, this series of work has a quiet- ness, even though the paintings are large and the colours are loud.” Further connecting this link between film and Mullaly’s paintings, NAP Contemporary directors Erica Tarquinio and Riley Davison explain, “Nick’s art is seductive but doesn’t shy away from the bittersweet and the complications of beauty and pain. He is a genuine auteur – a term most often applied to filmmakers, but it seems appropriate for Nick. His works are truly poetic and imbued with hidden narrative.”

Aglow with soft amber tones, Mullaly’s new paintings signify a renewed curiosity in painting the figure and serve as the ignition point for a busy 12 months. Following Hot Hot Hot, in late 2022 Mullaly heads south to New Zealand for Various Saturns, his first international solo exhibition at KAUKAU.

Nick Mullaly’s solo exhibition Hot, Hot, Hot shows with NAP Contemporary, Mildura from 22 July to 2 September.

Upon his return to Australia, Mullaly is set to begin work on Dance Marathon, an additional solo exhibition slated for 2023 at Melbourne’s Neon Parc. Reflecting on the rapid-fire succession of Mullaly’s upcoming solo shows, NAP Contemporary directors Tarquinio and Davison believe he is poised for great things. “After participating in numerous significant group shows, between both underground artist-run spaces and commercial galleries, Nick really jumps out as someone special. He is undeniably one of the most exciting young painters in Australia today.”

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 101, July-September 2022. 


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