Nigel Sense

Workers & Wankers

21 April — 12 May 2018
Opening: Saturday, April 21, 5:00 — 7:00 pm

Fox Galleries is proud to present Workers & Wankers with new paintings by Nigel Sense that contemplate the contemporary iconography of the blue-collar worker. Whether pushing a trolley, pulling a forklift or lifting a box, the “common man” and his Sisyphean labour are frozen in time. He seems to stay at the bottom of the ladder no matter how much he tries to climb.

But the idea of the blue-collar worker is constantly evolving, and now faster than ever before. In this country, and increasingly worldwide, access to new technologies and social media have raised expectations. People of every socioeconomic status want better jobs, higher pay, newer cars and bigger houses, creating what Sense calls the “blue-collar wanker”.

Sense paints his figures alone with their thoughts. Perhaps each title betrays its subject’s introspection. “I used to be in a band” is one man’s lost dream or relinquished creativity for a regular pay check. “Why is it only Monday” is one man’s incredulity at the drudgery of the 9 to 5. “Maybe I can just hide in here” is one man’s defeat, uttered to a co-worker as a joke.

Drawing from personal experience, Sense feels a connection to his subject, “Growing up, my father was my hero and my role model. He worked hard and got paid little, but still did his job with a smile.”

The “common man” has been a prominent subject in Western painting since Brueghel, often romanticised or demonised depending on the sensibilities and status of the artist. Sense pares down his compositions and renders his figures with minimal detail using large swathes of flat colour, making space for nuanced contemplation and thus, exposing us to ourselves. These images speak to the act of seeing the other in terms of class, how we see ourselves and how the other sees us.

Sense’s workers are not symbols of mundanity, they are the unsung heroes of the everyday who show up and sacrifice themselves for another cause, be it their families or perhaps bigger dreams. But, given the contemporary context, they are also the embodiment of souls lost to the capitalist machine, driven to toil by mindless consumption.


Read Andrew Frost’s interview of Nigel Sense on The Art Life


Read Art Almanac’s feature of Workers & Wankers



Summer  Show, Wagner Contemporary, Sydney, NSW
Black Swan Art Prize, Western Australia Art Gallery, Perth
Mosman Art Prize, Mosman Regional Gallery, Sydney, NSW
Kilgour Prize, Newcastle Regional Gallery, Newcastle, NSW
Fisher Ghost Art Prize, Campbelltown Art Centre, Sydney
Sense & Chavez, Fox Galleries, Melbourne
Untitled, Traffic Jam Gallery, Sydney
Art Is Lettuce (solo), Finders Street Gallery, Sydney

Hi how are you? (solo), Penny Contemporary, Hobart
Nigel Sense, Blokes and Sheilas, Harvison Gallery, Perth, WA