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Acclaimed artist celebrates first book – at 101

At the grand age of 101, Wellington artist Michael Nicholson has achieved a number of accolades that many could just dream of.  And now he’s topped his lifetime of achievement with the launch of his first book.

Decades in the making, Visual Language Games delivers a chronology of Nicholson’s work in the visual arts field since 1947, beautifully capturing the artist’s lifetime of work which has crossed mediums including painting, sculpture and video.

Born in 1916 in England, Nicholson spent his early years at boarding schools and on military service.  At the end of World War Two he found himself demobilised and facing an uncertain future with his wife and two small children. 

The desire to seek out a better future for his family, coupled with a pinch of genetic influence, set Nicholson on a path into the fine arts.  After postgraduate studies and a lectureship at the London Central School of Art and Design, he was offered a role at the University of Auckland.  The young family escaped post-war London and headed for the shores of New Zealand.

In 1954 his work was shown in the influential Object and Image exhibition arranged by Colin McCahon at Auckland City Art Gallery.  This was the first public exhibition in New Zealand of abstract works and his collection was shown alongside those of McCahon, Milan Mrkusich, Kass Jackson, Ross Frazer and Gabrielle Hope.

This marked a prominent point in Nicholson’s career, launching his individual progressive style.  A year of study leave in Australia eventually led the family to relocate to Sydney, marking the end of what Nicholson had deemed his ‘apprenticeship’, and ultimately the start of his career in the domain of visual language.

Turning his hand to sculptural practice, he executed important sculpture commissions and exhibited in a number of exclusive shows including the Sydney Biennale of 1976.

His engagement with the electronic media was opportunistic.  While working as an artist in residence in Australia in 1977, he had the good fortune to find a Scanimate video synthesiser interfaced with a computer.  Working with its crew, he was able to produce the raw material for what would eventually become the Visual Music Project Stage 3.  Nicholson was able to complete the project with a screening and installation at the New Zealand Film Archive in 2008.

Since moving to Wellington in 1986, Nicholson has produced large abstract paintings on canvas and consolidated his earlier video work, culminating in the Visual Music Project Stages 1, 2, 3.

Publisher Roger Steele says the release of Visual Language Games captures the depth and scope of Nicholson’s work and celebrates a lifetime of creativity and achievement.

“His work explores as many different media as it spans numerous decades, and it's as freshly conceptual and richly coloured today as when it was created,” says Steele.

"You've got to also admire Michael Nicholson's stickability; getting such a comprehensive and well organised book out is quite a feat at any age, and all the more remarkable for a man 101 years old." 

Visual Language Games may be ordered from any good bookshop, or by visiting