Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds donated by the Coe and Mordant families, 2009
Hanging glow bulb is an installation piece that both represents light and is transformed by it. Michelle Nikou has cast an ordinary light bulb and power cord in a dense resin material laced with glow-in-the-dark pigment. This material absorbs light and, when immersed in darkness, emanates a yellowish afterglow that gradually fades. Set to a timer at five-minute intervals, the bulb floods the room with sudden brightness then diminishes into darkness. Forced to adapt to the change, viewers see first a dead globe, then its double – a strangely glowing apparition suspended in the room.
The work sets up an eerie resonance between natural and artificial light. The light bulb and its power cord emit a glow that, despite appearances, is not linked to electricity or power generation. Instead, this transient emission is akin to the natural phosphorescence of fireflies or the bioluminescence of jellyfish. Perhaps the strongest association in the work is with the fluorescence of minerals and radioactive elements that glow in the dark in reaction to different light-wave lengths. This latent presence of nuclear energy and chemical reaction inhabits Hanging glow bulb, and brings to mind the mysterious illuminations of the natural world.
Updated and approved August 2016.
Hanging glow bulb was made with the intention to investigate both optimism and confidence – it simply plays with notions of dark/light and fear/innocence. The shaping of the cord suggests a utilitarian movement of light to where it is needed, and though the work is static, this shape provides a sense of calm flow.
Michelle Nikou, 2009.
Michelle Nikou, 2010
Born 1967 Adelaide, South Australia. Lives and works Adelaide.
Michelle Nikou is a sculptor who uses a wide range of materials including lead, bronze, resin and ceramics. Her work conveys universal themes with a candid, wry sense of humour and an unconventional aesthetic. Preferring manual techniques to a more industrial approach, Nikou uses traditional processes of metal casting in materials such as lead, bronze, tin and aluminium. Yet unlike the traditional pour/cut/polish method of much sculptural work, Nikou’s casting process is left evident along with much of the plaster.
Nikou’s work has been shown nationally and internationally, including a solo exhibition, Vacancy, at Contemporary Food Lab Exhibition Space, Berlin (2014). Her group shows include Return Threshold, Fontanelle Gallery, Adelaide (2014); Future Primitive, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2013); Volume One: MCA Collection, MCA, Sydney (2012); Before and After Science: Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); Uneasy – Recent South Australian Art, Samstag Museum of Art, Adelaide (2008); Imagine … the creativity shaping our culture, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2006); 2004: Australian Culture Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (2004); MCA Unpacked, University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide, Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria and Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre, Sydney (2004); and Home Sweet Home: Works from the Peter Fay Collection, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2003).
Nikou’s work is held in numerous collections including the University of South Australia Art Museum, Adelaide; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Clo Fleiss Collection, Paris; Gigi Josef Fainas Collection, Geneva; Artbank, Sydney; and private collections in Australia.
A monograph of her work by Ken Bolton was published by Wakefield Press, Adelaide in 2006.