Collection Online

International behaviour

oil on canvas
152.4 × 198.1 cm
Accession Number
Australian Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through the NGV Foundation with the assistance of The Peter and Susan Rowland Endowment, Governor, 2001
© Jan Nelson/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of The Vizard Foundation
Gallery location
Not on display
About the work

The dark, ominous form of the overcrowded listing boat that dominates Jan Nelson’s painting is taken from a 1980s newspaper image of Vietnamese refugees in Australian waters. This image floats across a modernist, almost psychedelic ground.

Nelson has said of the painting, ‘I wanted to create a space between the desire for populist culture, as in the modernist pattern, reminiscent of such as magazines as Wallpaper and the emotional resonance of the Vietnamese boat. The image not only has personal significance to me but I believe to the essence of our Australian culture.’

Nelson’s painting possesses an emotional resonance that reminds us of how long and complex the issues surrounding refugees, social crisis and immigration have been lodged in the Australian psyche.