Roger Nelson is an art historian interested in the modern and contemporary art of Southeast Asia, and a curator at National Gallery Singapore. He was previously Postdoctoral Fellow at Nanyang Technological University and NTU CCA Singapore. Nelson is co-founding co-editor of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia, a journal published by NUS Press. He completed his PhD at the University of Melbourne on Cambodian arts of the 20th and 21st centuries. Nelson has contributed essays to scholarly journals, as well as specialist art magazines such as Artforum, books, and exhibition catalogues. He has curated exhibitions and other projects in Australia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Nelson’s translation of Suon Sorin’s 1961 Khmer novel, A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land, will be published in 2019. His Modern Art of Southeast Asia: Introductions from A to Z was published in 2019.
Roger Nelson’s research is on modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on trans-media intersections between visual and other forms of art, as well as with urban spaces and other texts. The role of women in discourses of the modern and the contemporary is a recurring concern in his research, which is mostly concentrated on Cambodia, Laos, and other areas of peninsular Southeast Asia. Interested in historiographies of art in Southeast Asia, Nelson recently published a major research report on terminologies of “modern” and “contemporary” “art” in nine Southeast Asian vernacular languages, co-authored with ten other contributors, all based in the region, and published in Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia. Also historiographical in nature, Nelson recently completed a journal article on recent independent curatorial initiatives in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which is currently under peer review; in that essay, he argues that independent curatorial research and practice performs art historical functions in these contexts. Nelson’s translation of a 1961 Khmer nationalist novel by Suon Sorin, titled A New Sun Rises Over the Old Land, is forthcoming with NUS Press; in his introduction to that publication, he argues for the value of the literary text as a resource for art historical and other forms of research. He is a participating scholar in a two-year Getty Foundation-funded project titled “Site and Space in Southeast Asia.” There, Nelson’s research focuses on downtown Rangoon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, considering the dynamic relationships between painting, photography, sex work, and discourses about women in the booming and cosmopolitan Burmese port city. Also relating to discourses about women, gender, and feminisms, Nelson is co-editor with Yvonne Low and Clare Veal of a forthcoming special issue of Southeast of Now, and co-convenor with them of international research gatherings on gender in Southeast Asian art histories.