Dot work, traditional lines and a fusion with contemporary painting techniques make Nick Levy’s artworks come to life. The bold and bright colour choices, and the rich, thick textural contrast tell a story. FOCUS finds out how Nick is creating his own style …
I hear that you are relativity new to the art scene; when did you start painting seriously?
Around about 2009, I had my first exhibition at the Armidale Aboriginal Keeping Place. They really helped my kickstart my career; during that exhibition I got lots of my works out there, met many people, made contacts and really got my name out there. I noticed that people were really interested in what I had to offer.
Tell us about your more recent exhibitions. You had one in Japan?
I have exhibited in many of the galleries throughout the New England. In 2011 I took heaps of artworks and exhibited in galleries around Japan.
What was the response like?
It was amazing. Everyone over there really loved my works, and I was lucky enough to make a few contacts over there. Every now and again I get calls from Japan, commissioning jobs for clients.
Since launching your career, are you painting full-time?
I’ve always had a full-time job working with youth. I think at heart I’m an artist; you know, I always make time for it.
Tell us about your style …
Well, the style I have been dabbling in and really focusing my efforts on is Modern Contemporary Aboriginal Art. It’s a step away from the older traditional styles, with the ochres and symbols. I use the traditional techniques (Dot Painting) and fuse a modern contemporary style that sits well with me.
I’d love for people to see my works and say, “Oh, that’s a Nick Levy piece”. At the start I thought it would come really naturally, but over time I found my journey had just begun. I needed to constantly keep developing, which I feel I haven’t perfected yet.
How can someone spot a Nick Levy artwork?
Well, I use lots of bright colours, contrasting tones, and I really like my pieces to jump out at you. However, you’d notice it because of my traditional and non-traditional techniques.
Traditionally these types of artworks told a story, so what message are you conveying in your latest contemporary works?
Yeah, I always have a story to tell – whether it’s about old stories with new takes on them, or general life. In essence, I want to tell stories that can be passed down through the generations. Sometimes, you just paint from the heart. There might be something that you just want to do, but generally, there’s always a story there – sometimes you just need to take a closer look at it.
So, do you feel that you are creating new stories?
I think that would be right. Over the years, the Aboriginal people have evolved through their artworks and with the current way things are, our lives are different now. I think that our stories and our art will relate to what we do now, without losing too many traditions and laws. It’s important to remember to know where you came from, but it’s just as important to live in the now and be ready for the future.
Originally, you’re a Glen Innes boy. When did you decide to venture to Armidale?
In 2009, I moved here with my wife, Mel. At the time we felt like a change, and Armidale seemed to be the right place. We have some plans to move to the coast in the near future.
Do you think that moving to the coast will have a change on your artwork, from an inland to a coastal perspective?
Yeah, I was thinking about that the other day. I have a really big connection with the ocean. Growing up, I’ve always been a country boy, but there’s something about the ocean, the land and environment, place and people. I’ve noticed it creeping into my art. I’ve been using a lot more blues and greens, seascapes and waves lately.
So what’s the best way to see some of your works?
I currently have some works at Oorala at UNE, I’ll be having an exhibition at the Keeping Place in November and then there’s more planned for 2018!