Abstract artwork can leave audiences scratching their heads, but everything Clinton Nain creates has a clear message.
“I firstly think about the concept and what lies behind it. From there I start thinking about what it means to me and how it makes me feel. From that point I start to look for the right mediums to help me tell my story.”
Born in inner-city Melbourne, Nain is the brother of another famous artist, Destiny Deacon, and the son of renowned Aboriginal activist Eleanor Harding. From his mother, Nain receives a legacy of protest which he presents through performance, sculpture and visual arts and has seen him featured in over 80 exhibitions and 50 performances over the past 20 years.
“I find my art work and my activism is one and the same. It has a strong ongoing affect on my outlook of life and my work.”
In 1999, he created the famous White King, Blak Queen series, which explores the white, male dominance of colonisation from the perspective of a fictional black female character.
“I have faced a lot of racism over my lifetime. A lot of passive-aggressive and violent behaviour, as well as hatred inflicted on me, and my peoples of original sovereignty.”
“Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are labels from the Western world. These are the names given to us by the masters of great criminal offence in this country. These names mean nothing to me personally. We have been renamed just like slaves from their masters.”
While he acknowledges the pain of racism, he’s quoted in ‘Art Collector’ as having an attitude of hope. “Despite all the hardships, the presence of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been ongoing. We are warriors and survivors. There is pride in our history that carries on today.”
His career highlight so far has been obtaining his Masters of Fine Arts in 2003, and in the future he’s looking forward to completing his PhD. Nain says that persistence is the key to success in a creative field.
“Never let ‘no you can’t do that’ be an answer to stop you from reaching your dreams and loving what you do in life. Because this is the only one.”
Nain’s heritage is from Erub, an island in the Torres Strait, and the Kuku people of far North Queensland, areas which he frequently visits. “My career is a part of my culture. My culture is my life. They are one and the same to me.”