Niels Oeltjen, known to many as Nails, famous for his folkie illustrative style has made a brave change in direction with the work in his new show, Biolume. The process oriented work explores the development of typographic language – deconstructing letter forms and reinterpreting them as imagery. This process is in essence a reverse evolution of typographic forms, which are, essentially, abstractions of image based glyphs, the first forms of written communication. The process seems to be an artistic archaeological dig for Nails, exploring the development of modern day letter forms.

The result is a more abstract than the Niels follower might expect. The works evoke a sense of an other worldly menagerie of sea creatures communicating in some futuristic body language (think the YMCA).

Whilst Biolume marks an evolution Niels’ work, it also marks a reimagining of what a modern day gallery space is. The common perception of a gallery is as a white box, an architectural vacuum in which to house art and not overtly engage with it. Obviously there are exceptions to this generalisation; think Lyons Housemuseum, Heidi Museum of Modern Art and Biolume is presented at design studio South South West. The dialog that this space brings to the experience of the exhibition adds a further dimension to the work. The less formal environment and direct connection between the process of the design and art practice allow a foothold into gaining a greater understanding Biolume.

In this way, Niels is using the history and bias of the space to his advantage, communicating his intent and driving the reception of the work. Niels and SSW have used this to great effect with Biolume to present a brave show in an approachable way.

Biolume is open Saturday 15th May noon–3pm and by appointment until 29th May.

South South West
Level 3, 105 Victoria Street Fitzroy