Peter Nicholls

b. 1936d. 2021

Peter Nicholls was born in Whanganui and educated at the University of Auckland, Elam School of Fine Arts. He went on to study at the Auckland Teachers’ College, spending some time as an art teacher in Auckland after graduating. Later he completed a Masters in Sculpture at the University of Wisconsin (Superior) USA.

In 1979 he became a lecturer in Sculpture at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art in Dunedin, a position he held until 2001.

His sculptures from the 1970’s and 1980’s are noted for how they combine figural, landscape and architectural abstraction through energised forms constructed in large timber members. His works tend to be tectonic and universal rather than site specific.

Nicholls often positions large cuts of wood in ways that overtly reference skeletal movement. Peter Leech describes this in relation to the work 'Toroa' where, he suggests, there is a “paradox of flight in that winged ponderousness and spine muscularity of the bird heaving its half ton-ness off the ground in a ruffle of massive feathers."

Of another major work, 'Bridge' (1985–86), art critic and poet, David Eggleton has written: "Nicholls created an arch of arrested movement from huge railway bridge beams that ... appear to twirl yet are suspended frozen, bolted together."

From 1990 Nicholls' work became laterally configured, river hugging and more site/place specific. These works often interrogate historic impositions of order on primal land.

Nicholls has numerous large-scale works in private and public collections internationally.

See also:

Peter Nicholls, ‘Toroa’ (1989/2020), Crosswharf Reserve, CBD, Ōtepoti Dunedin

Image: Bronwyn Holloway-Smith, Public Art Heritage Aotearoa New Zealand, 2021