onefourfour - Interview: Naomi Nicholls (cross-post)

I was interviewed on the onefourfour project blog.  I’m cross posting it here for you all to see.

How do you describe your work to others?
Describing the visual and experiential in words is an artform in itself, but as an artist, you have to try. Put simply, I make abstract paintings large enough to step inside.  The more complex description is that I make paintings directly onto wall, floor and ceiling using my gesture and reach to make a kind of signature of my body across a space, a residue of my body having been present at some time.

Do you have a preferred medium or use whatever is needed to express your ideas?
I’m pretty attached to paint and vinyl.  I also see colour as very much wedded to paint so that colour is a medium in itself.   I also use photographs and drawings in my preparatory works and increasingly, film.

How do you begin new work?

I often start by puddling in paint.  Doodling in watercolour or acrylics, or sometimes collaging and then start to imagine it taking up space.  Much of my work happens at the time of install and is partly intuitive, so I often have a period of frustration when I’m working on something because there is only a limited amount that I can do in the studio.

Do you tend to work in series’/projects or do you see your body of work as a continuation?
I see it largely as a continuum of works.

What attracts you to your subjects?
I’m really affected by scale.  Call it a combination of being tall and growing up in the open country, but I feel very aware of the scale and space, open and closed spaces.

What processes do you use to bring your ideas to life?
As I mentioned before, I do a lot of doodling in paint, which oftentimes comes out like a big mess.  But its purpose is less to look good and more an exploration of the substance of paint and the movement of the brush in my hands.

What do you use as reference material?
Photographs.  Some I shoot myself, and others I trawl the internet for.   I also paint onto photographs, which allows me to test ideas at a small scale.

Are you conscious of the meaning of the work initially or do you work intuitively?
I work intuitively.  However, the conceptual content of my work often remains the same – my body, responding to or against a site, the residue of a painting performance.

Do you aim to create the finished piece exactly as you envisioned or enjoy allowing it to develop organically?
A little of both.   Some planning and colour choices have to happen beforehand.  I also often paint onto the vinyl in my studio and cut it out and apply it in the site, so it has a two-step development.

What’s your favourite colour to work with?
Pink and green – usually not together.  There is something so shocking about hot pink.  It’s so often gendered in advertising and clothing, but when I paint with it I feel like it loses all that baggage and is just a brilliant colour that isn’t as heavy as primary red and lifts other colours with it.  And green – I bought a big can of green signwriting paint that is just the most sublime colour when you mix some streaks of white through it.

Where do you create?
My studio.  Or my sunroom at home.  Sometimes on my lunchbreak in my non-art job.

Do you have a studio ritual to start the session?
I try to write for a few minutes to clear my head.   I find my own expectations of the studio time and other’s expectations of what I will produce weigh heavy at times.  Writing blows out all these cobwebs and frees me up to begin making.

What’s your favourite music to work to?
I listen to music about 50 percent of the time, depends how concentration is working for me that day. Russian Circles and Nine Inch Nails are both great for intense art brain.

Do you enjoy coming up with titles?
Yes, except when I am completely stuck.  I usually consider the titles for me, not the viewer, so sometimes they seem a bit meta.  Other times I just go for colour or what they are (eg: On Purple).

What’s your favourite part of creating?
Freedom and paint.  The freedom of pushing paint around.  Freely pushing paint around.

What advice would you give to your emerging self?
I am still emerging but I try to give myself pep-talks about stick-to-it-iveness, about giving myself permission to just make without judging what I make and encouraging myself to believe more in hard work than talent.

Do you have a mentor?
No. But I would love one.

How do you alleviate the down times?
Writing all of the yuck feelings down on paper in a stream of consciousness kind of way.   That way it’s out and said and the weight lifts just a little.  Seeing friends and family is helpful, doing a non-art project at home like gardening or I like to wandering around the city people-watching, eating dumplings and enjoying the sounds of trams ding-dinging and people’s inane conversations at the pedestrian crossing.

What is the most memorable exhibition/artwork you have seen and why?
I don’t know about most memorable, but I really enjoyed one from last year at Seventh Gallery in Fitzroy by Steaphen Paton.  Just inside the doorway was a newspaper and instructions for folding it into a triangular paper hat.  Then you pushed your way through eucalyptus branches to the opposite corner of the room where a small couch sat in front of a TV.  An indigenous man on the TV was speaking in an unknown language with subtitles and there was gun/canon fire in the background of the footage.  As you sit, it soon dawns on you that you have just invaded someone’s homeland.  It was a huge surprise and not what I was expecting of the piece.  I felt like I had been ensnared by an art-trap, it was a really clever way to convey its content.

If you could ask any artist any question, what would it be?
I don’t think I have any questions to any artists in particular.  If I did it would be about how to build a sustainable art career or similar, but I also know there’s no one path for that.  Everybody’s circumstances and practice is different.  But I would love to be an artist assistant to German artist, Katharina Grosse, for a few weeks just to absorb whatever I could.

What’s next for you?
Next I have a group exhibition which is the result of a group artist residency I attended late last year.  We have not seen each other’s work yet, so I am looking forward to the big reveal when we install.   I am also preparing some work for some projects later this year.

Keep up to date on the onefourfour project by following the blog and following liking the Facebook page.

There’s just a few days left to see the exhibition of the first three months of the twelve artists in the onefourfour project. 

Don’t miss out!


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