Simeon Nelson is a sculptor, new media and interdisciplinary artist interested in convergences between science, religion and art, complexity theory and relationships between art, architecture urban sites and the natural world.
After establishing himself as an artist in Australia and Asia in the 1990s, he moved to London in 2001 and is currently working on projects in Africa, Australia, Europe and the UK. He was a Finalist in the National Gallery of Australia’s National Sculpture Prize in 2005 and a Finalist in the 2003 Jerwood Sculpture Prize. Passages, a monograph on his work was published by The University of New South Wales Press, Sydney in 2000.
He has received arts council grants in Australia and the UK, Pollock-Krasner Foundation Fellowships, Wellcome Trust arts awards, Leverhulme Trust and EU funding. In 1997 he was the Australian representative to the IX Triennial India, New Delhi.
Projects include: All Our Ancestors, an Arts Council England/British Council funded residency and exhibition in Harare, Zimbabwe; Anarchy in the Organism, a Wellcome Trust funded commission for the new Macmillan Cancer Centre in London looking at cancer as a complex system; Plenum, a computer generated real-time architectural light projection looking at the balance of order and disorder in the cosmos, which is part of an EU Culture Fund supported project, Lux Scientia; Paratekton (Social Sculpture System), the Melbourne Art Fair, 2010; Cryptosphere, at the Royal Geographical Society, London and Plataforma Revolver, Lisbon, 2008-10; Desiring Machine, a monumental sculpture on the outskirts of Melbourne, 2008 and Flume, a large-scale site-embedded commission for Ashford, Kent, UK, 2005-8. His work is held in the collections of the Art/Omi Foundation, New York, the Jerwood Foundation, London, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and the Cass Sculpture Foundation, UK. He is represented by Encounter Contemporary, London and Mossgreen Gallery, Melbourne. His work is held in public collections in Australia and the UK. He is currently professor of sculpture at the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to
everything in the universe.” – John Muir
“I work with sculpture, installation and some digital art-forms. I sometimes work collaboratively with other artists, architects, landscape architects, structural engineers, composers, geographers, historians, biologists, dancers and others. I am interested in the potential of shared languages, underlying aesthetics and concerns that occur within and between different art-forms.
Cartography, scientific illustration and other types of systematic representation are an important reference for my practice. My work transposes between the graphical and the spatial occupying a zone I refer to as 2.5 D. The resulting work is as much a map or model of itself as of its referent.
I use analogies and metaphors from science, philosophy and religion. Topology, the study of the properties of form that remain invariant under distortion, entropy, the tendency for energy and organization to dissipate and homeostasis or autopoesis, the ability of a system, organism or machine to maintain a steady state internally in an entropic environment would be three of the more significant scientific ones. This engagement with science is motivated by a ‘post-reductionist’ sense of the necessity for science to connect with other forms of knowledge and ways of knowing the world.
I sift patterns and fragments from the natural and cultural realms and recombine them. These patterns could be derived from the connective tissue of the city, for example a motor-way, a railway network or a street pattern. Equally they could be derived from the branching of a tree, the migratory route of birds, a river drainage basin or a vascular network. I see the city as much an organism as an animal or plant and as much an ecosystem as a rainforest.*
I also use ethnographic, architectural, and historical ornament as raw material. The technique of isolating an element; removing it from its context allows the combining of fragments from different systems and is part of an ongoing practice of what I call ‘relational or recombinant taxonomy.
This bringing together of disparate structures, rescaled and recontextualised into the same artwork is a search for underlying similarities not immediately apparent. It is motivated by an intuition that under the diversity and complexity of things there are deeper sets of relationships that if followed far enough ultimately connect to the same source.
*My use of the ‘ecosystem’ in multiple contexts is indebted to Felix Guattari’s essay, ‘The Three Ecologies’ in which he expands the notion of ecology to include the mental and the social as well as the environmental.” – Simeon Nelson, 2009
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