Paul Nolan, a Nihonga painter in Australia

While it is well known that Nihonga has travelled overseas and has been enriched by external influences in Asia countries, we know far less about western artists who have dared expatriation to absorb the influence of the visual language of Nihonga, so profoundly Japanese. Their subsequent challenge has been to return to their home country and appropriate this language, practising the principles of this new art in their own work.This challenge is being met successfully by Paul Nolan whose work sublimates the nature of Australia, his home country.

When I look at his paintings, I have a beyond-the-cultures sensation, which reminds me of a journey in Australia in 1987. I felt again a very strong presence of Nature and the Earth I’ve encountered in Central Desert, or along the beaches of Magnetic Island. By discovering Paul Nolan’s work, I recovered that very physical sensation and aesthetic emotion, close to the Quebec expression “être en amour” (being in love) with the earth.

What could be better than mineral pigments and the Nihonga Spirit to celebrate this generous and sensual nature, stark at times. Paul Nolan knew magnificently how to renew the Nihonga in presenting Australian sceneries. By investigating into another culture, he then knew how to give us a fresh look on his own Australian culture.

Valérie Eguchi

His Site extract:

About Paul Nolan

On first encountering the original paintings of Ono Chikkyo, a modernist master of Japanese painting (Nihonga), I was deeply moved and wanted to learn about the method which was so suited to the kind of landscape and nature paintings that I am moved to produce. In particular the purity of the colours – the blues, green, ochres and whites, and the soft rich textures, seemed to resonate with my spirit. The materials seemed so well suited to celebrating nature. These include hand made Japanese paper with its strong natural fibres, sumi, seashell white, earth and semi-precious, mineral pigments and gold and silver leaf.
The aesthetic principles of Japanese Art which are said to have developed from profound contemplation of nature, also greatly appeal to me. Such principles as “wabi” and “sabi”, for example, belong to Japan’s unique culture, but can be understood by people around the world, as expressions of mans relationship to nature.
Paul Nolan

Paul was awarded a scholarship in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture. He completed his studies in 1986 with a Masters Degree in Japanese Painting (Nihonga) from Tokyo University of Fine Art (Geidai). He was one of the first foreigners ever to graduate in Nihonga and the first Australian to do so.


Paul has been invited by the selection committee to exhibit at the 2011 International Biennale of Contemporary Art to be held in Florence Italy in December 2011. This event is an opportunity of a lifetime for Paul to display his unique Australian art on the world stage. Paul has selected his depiction of Gymea Lillies, a truly iconic plant of the Australian bush, as one of the paintings to be exhibited.
How you can help
Paul is seeking assistance through donations to help cover the cost of entry, travel, freight and exhibiting at the Biennale in Florence.
Australia Business Art Fondation

Texte en français

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