SASHA GRISHIN                            p.1    p.2   p.3  p.4  p.5  notes
swaying light bulb, pencils, which have now multiplied and are crawling up the composition, the man-made stars, the television set, the mirror, the photographs and the office furniture. The seated figure, who engages us with her gaze, possibly a reference to the photographer Lee Miller, yields no meaning in her melancholy glance. It seems almost like a sign of resignation and an acknowledgement that something sinister is in progress over which neither she nor the viewer has any control.

In other paintings of this time, including Final dress rehearsal (Queen Rose arrives on the wings of intuition), And dawn into our quiet rooms fall all the sad sounds and The widow works the Crocodile Room at the Hotel Indefensible (The hard men secure the perimeter), all three painted in 2001, there is a return to the complex busy multifigured compositions. In all of these there is a sense of impending chaos, a palpable feeling of suspense and a premonition that disaster
is about to strike. Huge metal girders are about to topple and crush the people below, people flee out of their imaginary prisons within television sets, and the whole outside world burns and bellows with smoke, while the actor continues to perform under the spotlight on stage. While there may be echoes of other realities - in the foreground staircase in And down into our quiet rooms fall all the sad sounds there may be a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho house - these allusions themselves are filtered through many distorting minors. The drama of the situation is often accentuated through abrupt jutting angles and sweeping dynamic, diagonal compositional structures. The eye is never allowed to settle on a single spot or to rationalise the space or to present a singular coherent interpretation.

Neilson, in a visual language, raises similar philosophical concerns as Lyotard, when he speaks of late capitalism legitimating its power by stressing the system's efficiency, no matter how much the argument is lacking in logic. "The application of this criterion [of efficiency] to all our games necessarily entails a certain level of terror... The logic of maximum performance is no doubt inconsistent in many ways, particularly with respect to contradiction in the socio-economic field: it demands both less work (to lower production costs) and more (to lessen the social burden of the idle population). But our incredulity is now such that we no longer expect salvation to rise from these inconsistencies, as did Marx."14 In Neilson's painting there is this sense of impending terror, a disenchantment with economic rationalism, and a flight into personal iconographies of fantasy, where the television set can be an entry point between worlds with neither having a monopoly on truth or reality.

Although a number of the most recent paintings, such as Walls turning into vapour, 2001, and Welcome to our world, 2001-2002, may be anchored in the experience of specific historical events, the first concerning New York on 11 September, 2001, the latter, the refugee crisis, they engage with much broader realities in which no single discourse is privileged over the rest. As in Nothing to see here... keep moving!, 2002, the stage itself becomes a series of changing backdrops and vignettes, where there can be no solidity or certainty. Reality can be adjusted at a moment's notice on a stage where Jean-Antoine Watreau and Alfred Hitchcock are
Possible solutions 1995 oil on linen 150 x 200 cm Private collection

about to meet and where the line of demarcation between the actors and the audience is blurted and nothing seems certain other than uncertainty itself.

Perhaps on the fundamental level, Neilson presents the most basic justification for the existence of his paintings: "I paint these paintings because when I go to galleries I don't see them, so I have to make them up."

Dr Sasha Grishin
Head, Art History
Australian National University