#NOLAN100 - NO.61

Riverbend, 1964-6

Christina Slade

“During the 1970s, Nolan’s River Bend sequence was hung above the dining hall in Bruce Hall, at the Australian National University. The snaking river, the glowing pellucid colours, shimmered over philosophical debates on identity, exam crises, heartbreak.  The luminous curves of the river illuminated those years of learning, across all spheres.”


Christina Slade is Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, UK.  She co-edited From Migrant to Citizen: Testing Language, Testing Culture, which was published in May 2010 and which, in the light of the Australian debate on citizenship tests, examines the themes of identity and cultural belonging underlying the political rhetoric of testing new citizens' knowledge of the language and culture of a nation.  When exploring Australian culture and identity, one cannot overlook the infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, the alter-ego, perhaps, of Australia’s most famous artist.  Commenting on Nolan’s depiction of the bushranger, Christina comments that ‘Nolan’s Ned Kelly wears a helmet through which the Australian country appears, as though identity is absorbed into landscape. The country itself defines what it is to be Australian.’

Sidney Nolan, Riverbend, 1964-65, oil on board, nine panels (4th panel shown), The Australian National University Collection, © Sidney Nolan Trust

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