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  Rod McNicol

Rod McNicol was born in Melbourne in 1946. He studied at Prahran College (Department of Photography) during 1974. Although his time at Prahran was relatively short, it gave rise to a close friendship with Athol Shmith, who was to mentor McNicol through his early career. In 1975 he co-founded The Photographers Gallery in South Yarra. In 1978 he shared his first exhibition with Carol Jerrems at Brummels Gallery. From the beginning portraiture was the central focus of McNicol’s work.
Not long after this first exhibition he rented an old warehouse space in Fitzroy, and created a daylight studio. He still lives and works in this same studio space today. Between 1978 and 1985 he created a series of black and white portraits of his contemporaries – artists, actors, drug addicts and other fellow marginals. This body of work, exhibited under the title A Portrait, was shown in Melbourne (1978), in Cracow, Poland (1986), and then in Paris (1987).

In 1989-90 McNicol spent a six-month period as artist-in-residence in the Cancer Ward of the Repatriation Hospital, Heidelberg (Australia Council funded). During this time he took portraits of the terminally ill patients he got to know. Although he considered the work problematic and only four photographs were ever shown publicly, these four photographs are now in the Australian National Gallery collection.

Affected quite deeply by this residency, McNicol was to move away from photography for almost a decade. During this time he pursued his passion for horses and the equestrian art of dressage. Towards the end of the nineties, however, he was to return to his photographic practice and his love of portraiture.

In 2004 Rod McNicol won The Citigroup Private Bank Australian Photographic Portrait Prize - ‘the Photographic Archibald’ - at the Art Gallery of NSW. This year he is again a finalist in this prestigious portrait prize.

McNicol is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts at Monash University. For his Masters project, he is using his work A Portrait from twenty years ago as a basis for a time series. Bringing back many of his original subjects, he is creating a parallel portrait of them twenty years on, in the same studio and against the same wall. Included in this current exhibition are three examples that provide a prelude to this time series work although these three sets of photos go back even further to his first exhibition in 1978.

Solo exhibitions: Portraits from my village, Watson Place Gallery, Melbourne, 2005; A Portrait, Studio 666, Paris, France, 1987; A Portrait, Gallery Foto-video, Cracow, Poland, 1986; A Portrait, United Artists Gallery, Melbourne, 1985.

Selected Group Exhibitions: The Australian Portrait Prize, Art Gallery of NSW, 2005; The Australian Portrait Prize, Art Gallery of NSW, 2004; Sites of the Imagination, National Gallery of Victoria, 1993; Kodak Acquisitional Fund, Australian National Gallery, 1993; Art and the Cancer Ward, Linden Gallery, Melbourne, 1992; Artists in Hospital, Australian National Gallery, 1991; Photographic Portraits, Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne, 1991; The Lens and the Eye, Monash University Gallery, Melbourne, 1986; Rod McNicol and Carol Jerrems, Brummels Gallery, Melbourne, 1978.

Collections: City of Monash; City of St. Kilda; National Gallery of Victoria; Art Gallery of NSW; National Library, Canberra; Australian National Gallery; Bibliotheque Nationale, France.

Rod McNicol
May 2005


Rod McNicol 2008 Exhibition
Rod McNicol 2009 Exhibition