Artist Review: Nick Cave Ponders; Is There Racism In Heaven?

Mar 25, 2019

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‘Until’ is African American artist, Nick Cave‘s, largest and most complex exhibition to date. Showcased at Sydney’s Carriageworks from November 2018 to early March 2019 this bold, beautiful, ginormous installation of works embodies Cave’s question, “Is there racism in heaven?”.

Crystal Cloudscape Nick Cave at Carriageworks Test Kitchen Review

The scale of Nick Cave’s work is impressive. The centre piece, named Crystal Cloudscape, is a 12 metre long, six metre wide sculpture suspended from the ceiling. Weighing a massive 5.4 tonnes and made from 24,000 crystals, beads and chandeliers. On top of the centre piece is a mountainous array of found objects; antique porcelain, metal and glass birds, flowers, fruit and toys. Ornate embellishments, candelabras, gramophone speakers, oversize dandelion flowers and life size animals including gilded pigs, a lamb and a crocodile.


Most notably amongst the jumbled sea of objects, the 17 cast-iron ‘Jocko’ style lawn jockey’s can’t go unnoticed. These unsettling figures fore-fronting Cave’s subtle probing questions around the issues of racism, gun violence, racial profiling and gender politics currently dividing the United States of America and communities around the world. And therein lies the bittersweet nature of Nick Cave’s work.


As Carriageworks director, Lisa Havilah says, “Nick Cave has created a very special opportunity to step outside our everyday lives, to be in a place where more is possible, to dream, and then to act”.


We spoke with Mia, Suzie, Eddy, Ann and Laura of Cork & Chroma to find out first-hand what they experienced and thought of Nick Cave’s exhibition.

Nick Cave exhibition 2019
Nick Cave exhibition at Carriage works

Mia Manalo – Studio Lead, St Leonards

When you walk in, you’re immediately immersed into what seems like a different world filled with colour and movement. Hanging from floor to ceiling are pretty decorations which seem innocuous at first but once you stop and have a closer look you can see hidden messages within.

The next room we entered was another hanging installation, that again, at first glance seems to cover or mask a deeper message. This room also literally elevated you to another level where you could view the work looking down from a tall viewing platform. The last room was a huge room covered with strung beads which created immense wall coverings. The amount of work that done to be able to cover a room that size was mind blowing.

I enjoyed the immersive nature and intense colours throughout the exhibition. I’m always interested in seeing the different ways artists are able to portray a greater meaning through art and sculpture.

Detail of Nick Cave Crystal Cloudshape artwork

Eddy Tait – Communications and Culture Lead

As a crafty, art enthusiast I was blown away by the sheer volume and scale of Nick Cave’s work. The intricate beading, the loud and repetitive imagery, the over-saturated colour and most of all the impact of the powerful symbolism that becomes apparent upon closer inspection of each piece. After reading the exhibition booklet and taking a closer, more thoughtful look at his work, I too found myself contemplating Nick Cave’s question; “Is there racism in heaven?”.

Mobile installation at Nick Cave, Until, exhibition
Gun culture explored by Nick Cave in exhibition Until

Ann Gibb – Head of Operations

I am a huge admirer of installation art; I love the feeling of being immersed in a room designed to make me feel or think in a particular way. My initial feeling when walking into this exhibition was that I had entered a happy, bright, whimsical world filled with sparkling colourful objects. But the cleverest thing about Nick’s work is that the more time you spend looking at each individual item, the more you realise that things aren’t as shiny as you first thought. I couldn’t help but feel jolts of revulsion at the racist ornaments scattered amongst items you would find in any modern household, as well as the images of guns and bullets nestled amongst childhood decorative wind spinners.


Suzie Ferry – Hosting Manager, St Leonards

I liked the sheer scale, movement and colour around Cave’s work. The details in each of his pieces were so intricate and brilliant! The only thing I wish was that we had more to see. I would have loved to see more of Nick Cave’s evocative work.

Beaded net at Nick Cave, Until, exhibition 2019
Close up beading of Nick Cave installation 2019

Laura Wassermann – Studio Manager, Surry Hills

Nick Cave’s exhibition was one of the most outlandish installations I’ve seen in a while. It was a kitsch utopia where the space initially overwhelms you with happiness and positivity. The kind of elation that comes with mammoth, other-worldy, ornate assemblages suspended against a backdrop of epic, optical-illusion floor-to-ceiling graphics that envelope you in the space. It wasn’t long before I began to pick up on the darker undercurrents of this body of work through the references to gun violence, crime and racism carefully threaded by Cave. While you’re on an eye-candy high, a sinister air becomes more evident.

More Nick Cave Inspiration:

Website: Nick Cave
What’s on at Carriageworks

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