Three Figures
Three Figures
Three Figures
Three Figures
Three Figures

Yeo Workshop

Three Figures

About Artwork

“One mark might fall across another, but it didn’t cover it in the way of an oil painting. They would bleed together, with each mark laid dictating the form and painterly structure of the next. Nichols’s new paintings sublimate this lesson. Many are painted with oils on paper – the same slow marks that Nichols has long used, but now delivered in oil paint thinned to an ink-like consistency. Nichols has then bonded his paper to stretched linen, allowing the work to once more fold into another history: that of western painting.”

– Quentin Sprague


Presented as part of The Inside of Painting, 24 June – 23 July 2023, Yeo Workshop, Singapore

Artist Profile

Jonathan Nichols is an artist, independent curator and writer born and raised in Canberra and based in Melbourne. He began painting in the early 1990s after studying sculpture at the ANU and the University of NSW. Jonathan’s paintings are most often based on figures he paints directly from the computer screen in the studio. The figures might be taken from photographs he has taken himself or images found on the internet, but there are many mediating stages in the painting process that follows. Jonathan is concerned with a painting’s painterly character and its particular history. He builds a muted palette of tonal browns and greens, blue greys and warmer hues, and his works on paper, canvas and fabric are generally small to middle sized. Figures are never larger than life, and this rule or gesture in his practice links to the general scale of his painting and the painterly movements within each work.
In the past, Jonathan’s works have been described as ‘seeing at a distance’ – paintings where the world is seen at a distance. More recently, the works have transitioned. Figures and paintings are no longer ‘real’ scenes but rather suggest that paintings can themselves be living models of the world. For example, his most recent works join the figures of shop mannequins with figurative images he sources from the history of painting. The finished paintings collage strange hybrid shapes and hierarchies of figure and painting relations. In a reference to his time living in Singapore, Jonathan uplifts certain painterly gestures in the work of Chinese artist Wu Guanzhong, whose work is on permanent display at the National Gallery Singapore.

In 2022 Jonathan published a book of interviews with six artists (including Boedi Widjaja from Singapore and Noor Mahnun Mohamed from Malaysia) titled Walking with Ghosts: Six Conversations about Painting. The book unfolds as a story about painters and painting that reflects the conversations that happen in studios and between painters themselves.

Early in his career, Jonathan cofounded Melbourne artist-run initiatives The Green Door (2005), Lovers (1998–99 and 2014) and Stripp (1996–98). Recent curatorial projects include Learning to Leave at the VCA Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Melbourne (2014). Jonathan has been invited to curate an exhibition of Southeast Asian contemporary painters at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) later this year.

Over a period of 12 months in 2012–13 he was an artist-in-residence at Rimbun Dahan, Kuala Lumpur, and for six years until the end of 2019 he lived in Singapore. In late 2022 Jonathan submitted his Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) dissertation to the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.

Jonathan has participated in group exhibitions in Australia at the National Gallery of Victoria, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Canberra Contemporary Art Space, National Portrait Gallery, Ian Potter Museum of Art, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Geelong Gallery and Bendigo Art Gallery, among others. He has held solo exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.


Jonathan Nichols


Oil on xuan paper mounted on linen


71 x 82.5 cm