Sidney Nolan, Season in Hell (Benjamin Britten), 1982, 182.7x159.7cm, spray paint on canvas, c Sidney Nolan Trust
Anne Bean is a London-based artist who works in installation, large-scale sculpture, sound art, and performance art.
In 2016, I was one of the artists in residence at SNT. During the last few nights of the residency, I spent the entire time, until early morning in Sidney Nolan’s exhibition studio wrestling with several large paintings that I had placed in the Hindwell river to absorb the clay and water-current patterns. This river, on the estate, formed part of the English/Welsh border. Whilst making this work, throughout the very physical process, I was aware of Nolan’s magnificent, filmic Riverbend series. His face stared out from a large B/W photo as I worked in his space. Sometimes he seemed calm, sometime troubled. I watched a film where he pointed out this English/Welsh border on his own property; the implications of ancient frictions and resolutions between these different psyches, different histories, different struggles, different mythologies. I had been told that he had a harness constructed in this studio exhibition space where I was working, so that he could 'fly' over the painting with his spray cans, helped by an assistant with various pulley rigs. This image of him 'flying' as he spray-painted thrilled and provoked me. I find his spray-painted A Season In Hell (Benjamin Britten,) particularly disturbing and beguiling, in that it is simultaneously focussed and fizzing. This painting is a haunting, a dreamtime, a silent suppressed Munch scream. It brought to my mind a piece of writing I had written growing up in Africa where the sun seemed so powerful that it felt like an effervescence within the landscape, disorientating one’s gaze: 'my eyes weren't seeing but were what they saw'