It is not overdoing it to say that Mike Nelson has, single-handedly, created a suggestive, poetic, experiential art. His sculptural realism, situated halfway between invention and truth, has consistently provided an obsessive total vision. His pieces, with places often free to walk through, provide an inventive threedimensional relationship with broken narrative. Nelson has always worked intensely; with real labour making real places. The level of detail has been exceptional, and the attention to surface and the use of found matter, coupled with the power of cultural association and the broken sense of a dangerous lair, have made him a consistently exciting artist.
AMNESIAC SHRINE or The misplacement (a futurological fable): mirrored cubes – inverted – with the reflection of an inner psyche as represented by a metaphorical landscape (2007), Nelson’s long-titled piece for the Turner Prize in Liverpool last year (Nelson was also nominated in 2001), was different. You could not enter and walk through this one, you could only spy a trickily simple extended vista, from the edge, the outside, of a relatively simple structure. This view, repeated, geometrically and evenly, four times, brings an abstract, bleak, less-real but anecdotal idea. There will be ample opportunity this year to see his older work. Melnais Kakis (1999) will be part of a mixed show at White Cube. His AMNESIAC SHRINE or Double coop displacement (2006) will be at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and To the Memory of H.P. Lovecraft (1999) will be at the Hayward (both from May to August).
But the pleasure of immersive fiction was already being denied at Nelson’s last show at Matt’s Gallery, in 2006. From now on, perhaps we can expect more diagrammatic drawn sculpture, more spare abstract stuff. Nelson will always have the option to be overpoweringly convincing, to use what we share to tell us something we do not know. Perhaps the new work he makes in Copenhagen in the summer, for instance, and for Villa Arson, Nice, in the autumn, will be a lot more selfish, a bit less giving.
This article was first published in the March 2008 issue.