Installation view of Nicholas Mangan’s <em>Core coralations</em> 2023 on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023. Image: Sean Fennessy

Nicholas Mangan

Nicholas Mangan
(b. 1979, Geelong, Victoria. Lives and works in Naarm/Melbourne)

Nicholas Mangan is a multidisciplinary artist known for unearthing and interrogating narratives embedded in objects, time and places. Bridging drawing, sculpture, film and installation, his politically astute artistic practice draws from scientific and historical research to address some of the most urgent issues of our time that are a result of the human impacts on the natural world. 

The ocean is responsible for 50 per cent of the world’s oxygen supply, and coral is a major contributor to that percentage. Core coralations, 2023, is a major film and sculpture commission for Melbourne Now. The artwork has been informed by the artist’s visit to the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) in Townsville, a world-class marine research aquarium facility that allows scientists to research the impact of predicted environmental changes on corals. As well as enabling researchers to manipulate environmental factors like light, temperature, acidity and salinity, SeaSim also allows scientists to breed, stress-test and propagate corals. 

For the film, the artist undertook a residency on Heron Island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, where he attempted to commune with dead coral by assembling various classroom scenarios to contemplate extinction, heat death, mutualism and modern portfolio theory (one of many approaches being explored to save the ailing coral reef). Death assemblage is the companion piece to the film, a wall of aggregated coral rubble with bioluminescent pigment that is at once a barrier, billboard and ossuary. At intervals the ultraviolet lighting references the fluorescing that corals have displayed as a protection mechanism in mass bleaching events. 

 Mangan is a Senior Lecturer at Monash University’s Department of Fine Art, with a PhD in Fine Arts from Monash University and a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) from Victorian College of the Arts. He has exhibited extensively throughout his two-decade career, including having solo exhibitions at Sutton Gallery, Monash University Museum of Art, Centre for Contemporary Photography, and Gertrude Contemporary in Melbourne; Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney; the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Dowse Art Museum, New Zealand; LABOR Gallery, Mexico City; and Chisenhale Gallery, London. Select group exhibitions include those at the Biennale of Sydney and Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney; Guangdong Times Museum, Guangzhou; SculptureCenter and the New Museum Triennial, New York; SeMA Mediacity Biennale, Seoul; and Project Arts Centre, Dublin.

Core coralations is made possible with the support of the Copyright Agency, Australia; Australia Council for the Arts; and Blue Assembly, University of Queensland Museum.