Triple Axel is Luca Nicholas’s first solo exhibition and the culmination of his study at Auckland University of Technology, where he recently completed his Master of Visual Arts degree. The print-based works on show are the product of experimentation with diverse processes and concepts, as Nicholas has attempted to develop a mode of making that explores queer experiences with ‘pathos, humour, and care’. The title of the show is wry, reflecting his current state of mind: a mixture of relief and apprehension. In figure skating, a ‘triple Axel’ is a kind of jump that is notoriously difficult to execute (it is named for the Norwegian skater Axel Paulsen, who originated the single rotation version of the manoeuvre). To pull off a triple Axel indicates serious skill. Yet it is no guarantee of future success. The next attempt might result in failure. To get a degree and then quickly present a solo show is an achievement, no question. But what comes next?
Among the earliest works in Triple Axel is an etching with monoprint colour titled Tonya Harding, Liza Minnelli Tries to Turn Off a Lamp, and Muscle Bear Combo 03 (2018). The image depicts a bedroom. On the back wall, there is a chine collé ‘poster’ showing Harding, who became the first American woman to land a triple Axel in 1991. In recent years, she has achieved renewed fame, even cult status, thanks largely to two 2014 documentaries and the 2017 biopic I, Tonya. The films emphasise not only her prowess on the ice, but also her complicated home life, and her role in a 1994 attack on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, carried out by Harding’s ex-husband. Nicholas’s work shows the skater pre-scandal, at the competition that saw her perform the triple Axel. She is at the height of her powers, the winner of the day. One can only imagine what might have happened had she gone on to make different decisions. Sometimes, it seems, it is wiser to quit while you’re ahead. …
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5 November to 5 December 2020
Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland