Sidney Nolan, Self Portrait in Youth, 1986, Enamel spray on canvas, 1830 mm x 1605 mm x 38 mm
Duncan Fallowell is an English novelist, travel writer, memoirist, journalist, critic and Friend of the Sidney Nolan Trust.
"When I visited Sidney and Mary at The Rodd in 1985 he told me that he wanted to do a series of libellous paintings for posthumous release, 'which tell it like it really is because it's a bit difficult to come out with it when you're alive.' Just before Mary died I asked her if he'd ever got round to these libellous paintings and she said no, he hadn't. So I guess this had been the playful mischief in him talking (which it often did). Such pictures would have been interesting of course but they weren't really necessary, because for me his greatest quality wasn't 'coming out with it' but an eeriness, even a sense of the occult: the pictures convey far more than they portray. I reminded him that Kenneth Clark once compared Nolan's pictures to the music of Benjamin Britten, in their sense of menace, of something very strange just over the horizon; and I added 'But I think your work is more sinister than Britten's.' He flinched: 'Oh dear - really?' 'It's a compliment,' I said. 'Yes . . . ' he murmured distantly, 'I suppose it is. With that in mind, I would like to draw attention to this disturbing and beautiful Self Portrait of 1986, in which dream, terror, and warm physical reality shift ceaselessly. As with so many of his works, one keeps on looking, trying - and failing - to solve the questions it raises."