Michelle Nikou characteristically draws on surrealism in a reflective and productive way to transform domestic and mundane items and materials into objects of humour and marvel. She inventively uses surrealist strategies and techniques such as chance, automatism, detritus, collage, psychological or sexual metaphor, deadpan wit, surprise and juxtaposition, as well as mingling high and low art sources and cultural references. Her work intentionally blurs and extends the boundaries between fine art and craft and often invests unremarkable or overlooked facets of daily existence with new and unexpected significance.
Nikou’s practice is also characterised by a deep engagement with language and she frequently creates installations based around a single word or phrase in a manner reminiscent of concrete poetry. She makes connections between art and literature that invoke suburban life, family interactions, relationships, and food. Seemingly disparate concepts and materials are regularly combined to produce unsettling and sometimes absurd effects, such as fried eggs made in bronze that are displayed flat on the wall, their forms suggesting the vowels of the alphabet.
In addition to the cast sculptural objects for which she is perhaps best known, Nikou makes experimental textile pieces and jewellery that similarly explore related domestic and emotional themes. In the past she has cast chewed mouthfuls of food, cheezels and half-bitten Yo-Yo biscuits to create jewellery that functions as an extension of and furniture for the body, and as metaphors for psychological states. Her wearable pieces, like her sculpture, express a desire to situate art in daily life. She has extended this idea in a project where she removed toilet paper from rest rooms in small country towns in South Australia and the Art Gallery of South Australia, imprinted it with stamps depicting images and text then replaced it for use by the public.
Michelle Nikou: a e i o u on display 12 May - 18 June.
Image: Michelle Nikou: a e i o u, installation view, Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2016. Photograph by Christian Capurro.