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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Walking in tall grass, Viktor, 2005 by Jan Nelson
Walking in tall grass, Viktor, 2005 by Jan Nelson

‘Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours
We linger alone
Bodies confused
Memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone’

The Doors, Strange Days (Jeffrey B. Atkins, Marcus Vest, Richard Keller; Universal Music Publishing Group), 1967

Against a synesthetic field of loud, vibrating colour, painted for this exhibition by Jan Nelson, stand the quiet, introspective, private figures of Walking in tall grass paused between childhood and adulthood. We fix adolescence as the time of inner turmoil, private worlds and secret refuges, doubt and imagination, protest and liberation. The human mind and body never really leaves this state of transition. Layered within Jan Nelson’s work is personal experience of her own formative years during the social, political and cultural tumult of 1960s. Building Walking in tall grass since 2001, Nelson’s figures are composites of individuals timelessly placed. Strange Days is from Nelson’s new series of work. It is also a composite: ‘The sculpture is part self-portrait, my memory of myself, and a girl I saw at Occupy Melbourne.’

6 portraits

1Walking in tall grass, Lucy, 2010. 2Walking in Tall Grass, Betty, 2010. 3Walking in Tall Grass, Lauren, 2007. 4Walking in Tall Grass, Marion 2, 2011. 5Strange Days, 2013. All by Jan Nelson .

Related information

Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks
Divide, 2011 by Sam Jinks

In the flesh

Previous exhibition, 2014

In the flesh is an enthralling and immersive experience of contemporary art that confronts the concept of humanness and the experiences of consciousness and emotion. Featuring ten Australian artists including Jan Nelson, Patricia Piccinini, Ron Mueck and Michael Peck, the exhibition explores themes of intimacy, empathy, transience, transition, vulnerability, alienation, restlessness, reflection, mortality and acceptance.

The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.