nicholas nicola etchings


The following images are based on experiences, memories and impressions within the Sydney environ. There is one notable cross-culltural work: Shiva the Cricketer and it along with other prints like Dancing Dolls. Kings Cross Festival, With Water & Courage, Angel in my Park, Zorba the Greek  and Ressurection Night  also ties in with my interest to capture a sense of magic realism that I often perceive or witness in life. Magic realism or the offbeat image pervades much of my work.

  • speed's milk bar (XL N/A)
  • dancing puppets. kings cross street festival (M)
  • kite flying. sydney park. st.peters (XL)
  • suburban dream (L)
  • zorba the greek (L)
  • an angel at my park (M N/A)
  • shiva the cricketer (L)
  • with water and courage (L)
  • resurrection night (M)
  • black deaths in custody march. eveleigh st (M).

            S small M medium  L large XL extra large N/A not available




                     24  ‘Speed’s Milk Bar.’ B&W. 5.5”X 8.5” zinc plate. Earlwood. XL. N/A. 


I grew up in milk bar for nearly twenty years and my father was known famously as Speedie as he was considered very slow in serving customers. Although it was noted that Speed was very quick whenever he raced off to the TAB across the road. My mother was ‘Mrs Speed’; while myself, my sister and brother were all ‘Little Speeds.’ It was also a never-ending source of curiosity as to why all three siblings had auburn hair. (At school I was sometimes referred to as the ‘rare red-headed wog’). This etching is based on a classic sepia photo of the milk bar which I have since ‘misplaced.’ The milkshake maker in the foreground remains a ‘family totem’ to this day. Despite the very long hours of tough labour it was a very lively, interesting way to spend one’s youth. Yet as my brother recalls the racism was rife (with a few brawls etc) and we bore the brunt of it until Australia finally became a more tolerant society (on the surface at least) when the ‘social accent’ thankfully shifted to multiculturalism. Yet, there are many good memories such as my brother and I playing the Wests brothers in a best-of-five ‘WOGLCON’ pinball series which had all the atmosphere of a Grand Final at the S.C.G. (CON stands for convicts. At the time Space Invaders was also a popular electronic game). The shop was also a little bohemian with a lot of suburban and political philosophy being espoused by a varied assortment of regular customers from all walks of life with even the occasional celebrity popping in to buy ciggies or whatever. Another quirky little story is how we were allowed by the pinball machine mechanic who came around to collect the twenty cent pieces in the pinballs said that if we put red crosses on the coins we could get those back seeing we belonged to the shop; so my father red-crossed everyone's coins which amazed the mechanic the next time he came to collect the coinage; obviously my father had to stop doing that. I assume we got a percentage of the coins anyway - I never really found out.  I could rave on as the nostalgia always gets the better of me but I should add that although my extremely hardworking mother had to also raise three kids my very temperamental ‘larger than life’ father was definitely the ‘star of the show’ being both ‘tyrant’ and witty ‘comical satirist’ and thus I leave you with the following poem:


 I sometimes envy the family cordiality of the Anglo - American middle classes

 when I compare it to the psychological upheavals of my Grecian family history

 Which nevertheless goes back to the beginning of time

 To the time when Prometheus stole fire for humanity 

 To the time when chaos was replaced by the universal order of the gods

 Who fight and debate amongst themselves

                                                                            shifting the fates of both men and women

 according to their whims

 according to their lusts

 according to their jealousies

 according to their drunken states

 States of mind

 States of body

 States of soul

                         and other Aristotelian dichotomies


 States of divine judgement

 States of  human error which do not guess correctly the divine moods 

 To the moods of my father who has the temper of a thunder god

 I understand now he is none other than Zeus

 I his son

 The son of Zeus

                            Doomed to deal with a god who has the gruffness of a Spartan warrior

                            (How I envy the apparent civil manners of Anglo-Australian society)

                             Hey there’s Zeus studying the racing form guide

                                                                                                                with the discipline of a university academic studying the 

                                                            mysteries  of  quantum mechanics

 Hey there’s Zeus picking oranges and lemons from the backyard

 Hey there’s Zeus taking out the garbage

 Hey there’s Zeus shouting at everyone in sight

 Hey there’s Zeus who feeds my mother whose body has totally been worn down by disease and by the hours of hard work and emotional pain inflicted upon her over the long years

 Hey there’s Zeus watching the footie

 Watching the share                                                                                              


 Watching the parliament


 Watching endless episodes of American sitcoms

 Watching John Wayne kill all those bad men

                                                                                 from out of town

 Watching his grandchildren who play in the backyard created from the life force of his soul which contains enough energy to explode and tear apart the known universe from the suburbs of Sydney through to Circular  Quay

It is a mystery to me

                                     as I play with my sister’s twin three year olds

My nephew

My niece

                 on the swings

                                         (There I am pushing them to and fro in time with the rhythm of the universe)

                to think of the push and shove and determination of my father who had his family working for twenty  years in the milk bar

                                                 I’m still on the swing with my nephew and niece

                                                 We are all three silent enjoying the midday sun

                                                 In a paradise made from harsh toil

                                                 Yes it is still a strange realization to me that from the endurance tests foisted upon us by life can sometimes come such tranquillity




                            The original milkshake maker from Speeds MIlk Bar in the possession of the artist; here it is in the kitchen. It is quite a valuable antique piece now and the artist is surprised how much these now cost. The milkshake maker was acquired by the artists' father  re: Speedie and it now sort of functions as a 'family totem'. It is still very much functional. 



                   25  ‘Dancing Puppets. Kings Cross Street Festival’. 

                 B&W. 6”X 4”. zinc plate. M

 One time at the Kings Cross street festival I came across this peculiar sight of a dancing puppet on a little stage. (I have considered ‘Sydney Voodoo’ as an alternative title for this print). I did a quick drawing on scrap paper. I asked one of these two women how the puppet could dance and it was cheerfully explained that the mystery would be solved if I bought one – which I duly did. As it turns out a piece of fishing line is strung on a little hook on the back of the puppet. It is a simple matter of lightly shaking this fishing line to make the puppet bounce up and down to make it appear as if it is dancing. Very clever.



               26 ‘Kite flying. Sydney Park. St. Peters.’  B&W. 11.5”X 8”. zinc plate. XL

In the local area these tall chimney stacks of a now disused brick factory have a very iconoclastic quality to them as they are so dominating. There is a large park behind the stacks which is in regular use by the community. Every Christmas the stacks are decorated by the council. The small rooms within the brickworks are also sometimes used such as for exhibitions or plays. Many years ago I once went here to see a production of Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days.




                      27 ‘Suburban Dream.B & W. 8” X 6”. zinc plate. L

This image recalls the Australian past time of watching late afternoon games shows. The Wheel of Fortune was a favourite of mine. 


                   28 ‘Zorba the Greek’.   B& W. 8” X 6”. zinc plate. Llewellyn.St. Balmain. L 

This image is based on an evening with friends who used to live in this beautiful old house in Llewellyn Street, Balmain. I was driving over to the house one September on a Saturday night many years ago and I heard Zorba the Greek on the radio. At the house one of my friends mentioned Zorba the Greek and it was decided to play this tune and other folk songs from around the world. It is hard to explain but there was a dream like quality to the evening for me as we absorbed ourselves in dancing to these songs. The house had a rustic feeling to it and the magical overtone of the night was accentuated by dancing in the near dark - I think there was only a lamp lighting the room. The work itself displays the cluttered living room of this old house and the composition of the dancing figures - which includes myself and three other female friends - is based on Henri Matisse’s The Dance. 


                  29‘An Angel At My Park.’ black on grey paper.  6”X4”. zinc plate. Burwood. M. N/A.

I taught mildly intellectual disabled primary age students for a year and once a week the class – which consisted of anything between five or six kids - was taken to Burwood’s Westfield. The students were shown how to independently shop in a supermarket. Afterwards there was lunch in the nearby park as well as a chance to feed the ducks before going back to school. A friend interested in psychology once came along. She had an immediate rapport with the children in my care – ‘Rain Class’ - not baulking at their ‘differences’. Her calm natural empathy throughout the day led me to believe that I had spent these hours with an angel. This image is based on a photo of her being on a see-saw with the kids. The photos have three of my former students dancing  Zorba the Greek - which I taught to them.


Students with with ducks and angel at Burwood Park.



           30  ‘Shiva the Cricketer.’ S.C.G.

         To commemorate India’s innings of 7-705 (declared) at the S.C.G. New Year’s Test.  January. 2004.

          B & W.  9” X 5”. copperplate. L

As I understand it Shiva ‘the Auspicious’ is the Hindu god of both creation & destruction. It is what is intimated in the words from Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Brahma, Visnu, Siva where he talks of the great Siva awakening to give new form to our bodies that grow weary on a ‘law-fixe path’; Siva to sing of our destruction so that we may obtain new life. This print commemorates India’s 7-705 (declared) at the New Year’s Test. January. 2004. S.C.G. An awesome score by which India’s creativity was destructive to the Australians. I loved it. It certainly seems the Indian team did have this multi-limbed divinity miraculously aiding their batting. The Shiva is based on a bronze sculptural piece called Shiva as Nataraja (The Lord of Dance) which I saw at the Vision of Kings exhibition at the ANG. Canberra. The four dancing dervishes behind Shiva (& the S.C.G stands) are from an Indian image of dancers & musicians also in this exhibition. Shiva the Cricketer In a ‘backdoor way’ also wonderfully commemorates the liberating, exuberant life spirit of Bollywood! A ‘fantastic’ film style which I truly appreciate & marvel. 



          31  ‘With Water And Courage.’ B&W. 8” X 6”. zinc plate. L

Roslyn, an old friend, has performed in much street theatre and was a member of a famed troupe named Icarus. I once saw her in a spectacular fire performance outside the Supreme Court at Taylor Square on the Sunday evening of the Taylor Street Fair. At her former place in Darlinghurst - where on the wooden floor was a painting of the sun iconography you can dimly make out in the background - I asked Roslyn how she went about practising her fire breathing (she also often walked on stilts in her street performances). “With a lot of water and courage.” came Roslyn’s understated reply.






              32 ‘Resurrection Night.’ B&W. 6”X 4”. zinc plate. Earlwood. M

At the stroke of midnight on the Saturday night of every Greek Easter people light their candles and hold them up and proclaim ‘Christ is Risen!’ It is an inspiring  moment and visually these flames of light overcoming the surrounding darkness accentuates for me the deep mystical quality of the ‘eastern hues’ of the Orthodox faith.






                33  ‘Black Deaths in Custody March. Eveleigh St.’ B&W. 6” X 4”.zinc plate. M. 


In the late eighties there was a big push for a Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody. This Commission finally occurred and although many recommendations were made many still need to be put into practice.  This image is based on a photo I took while this protest march I was in went down Eveleigh Street, Redfern where I was shocked by the derelict condition of many of the buildings.  The photo of the girls with Aboriginal flag painted faces was taken at a La Perouse Survival Day Concert.



                                          Aboriginal face painting. La Perouse Survival Day Concert.

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