Nick Malone’s new exhibition at Bermondsey Project Space, The Disappearance of Makepeace - A Tale of Two Lives, focuses on the interplay of text and imagery. The artist, who is also a successful writer of poetry and prose, crosses art forms to explore metamorphosis, dissolution and change.
Nick’s new show combines installation, images, animation and soundscape, exploring the ways in which words and images can interact. The exhibition operates in dialogue with Nick’s graphic novel, a mystery thriller that traces the disappearance of James Makepeace.
Can you tell us about your new solo show and a little bit about a couple of its major pieces?
It follows on from an earlier exhibition at Bermondsey Project Space, which I see as acting as a springboard in developing a particular way of working. The approach enables me to cross art forms and engage the viewer on several levels.
Installed works that deal with an inner mythology can viewed solely in terms of their visual dynamics, or can be seen to interact with the text of a graphic novel that sets the exhibition within a wider context of narrative, adventure and dream. The novel operates by using windows cut into the pages that open 'trap doors' into different co-existing text and imagery, and there are partitions within the exhibition that will operate in the same way.
What do you explore in your graphic novel and how does it relate to the exhibition?
Graham Crowley, the painter, suggested I write a graphic novel based on my own life, which I initially dismissed then came round to, although frankly this is more of an artist’s book. In a sense, all of it is true, even the bits which on the face of it manifestly aren’t, and it’s an extended rumination on becoming an artist.
However it has mystery, excitement and adventure, which I think becoming an artist very much involves, and it provides an armature for works in the new exhibition that at one level can be seen just in terms of their visual dynamics, but can also be given further meaning through narrative if the viewer so wishes.
How does your writing interact with the production of your art?
There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two, whereby ideas developed in writing feeds into my art practice, which in turn feeds back into my writing. In fact I recently came across a piece of manuscript from years back which I knew I’d written - it was in my handwriting - but I didn’t recognise.
However on reading it I immediately realised that I was dealing all those years ago with the very same issues in writing that I’m wrestling with now in my current art practice - issues of dissolution and change, and story, which I love. My studio manager said “Write it on the wall, it’s cool, write it on the wall!” I don’t really do “cool”, but I did as she told me.
Do you draw inspiration from any other artists and writers?
I see Anselm Kiefer as the greatest living artist, because of the ways in which he fuses concepts, history and ideas with visual dynamics. Among the writers I would particularly mention would be William Empson, who wrote the introduction to my first book.
Empson changed the course of twentieth century literature with his work “Seven Types of Ambiguity”, exploring the thesis that the more interpretations that can be made of a piece of literature, the more powerful it would be, in some ways anticipating deconstruction. Years later I found myself transferring those principles into art.
A second writer I would mention is T.S.Eliot. The opening lines of his poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock begin: “Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherised upon a table;” Who is the “you”? The reader? Someone else in the room? I think that alongside the “I” it is part of Eliot himself. And in 'The Disappearance of Makepeace, A Tale of Two Lives', Makepeace is in one sense me - along with the narrator Eustace.
Where do you go for your art and culture fix? A museum or gallery? What about a restaurant? Thanks to collaborations between artists, curators and restaurateurs, you can now banquet beside a Banksy or dine with a Damien Hirst. Here are 6 of London’s best restaurants serving art à la carte.
1. The Groucho Club, Soho
Known as the hangout of artists, The Groucho has an impressive British art collection. Mat Collishaw, Stella Vine, Banksy, Tracey Emin and Idris Khan are amongst artists on show. Members of this exclusive club can take guests. So, bag yourself an invite, order a cocktail and soak in Soho’s bohemian spirit.
2. Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square
You might mistake Sexy Fish for the lair of a Bond villain. Bronze mermaids by Damien Hirst and a 13ft crocodile by ‘starchitect’ Frank Gehry greet guests. On the Asian-inspired menu is sushi, sashimi, tiradito and tempura. A late-night bar stocks the largest Japanese whisky collection in the world.
3. Le Gavroche, Mayfair
Michel Roux Jr.'s restaurant is famous for indulgent French food. What you may not know is that two Michelin stars are paired with a stunning art collection. Pieces by Picasso, Giacometti, Miró and Dalí are as classic as the cuisine.
4. The Ned, City of London
Inside this luxury hotel is The Vault Bar. Here, hotel guests and members will find ‘The Vault 100’ art collection, featuring 93 female and 7 male artists. Located in the heart of the financial district, it’s a powerful statement, inversing the FTSE 100 CEO gender ratio. Artists include Jenny Holzer, Phyllida Barlow and Cornelia Parker.
5. Tramshed, East End
Dine beneath Damien Hirst’s dramatic Cock ‘n’ Bull installation at trendy Tramshed. This vitrine of a cow and chicken sums up Mark Hix's menu: roast chicken or steak. A former tram generator station, the industrial-chic space exhibits emerging artists in the HIX ART basement gallery. ‘Cool Britannia’ lives on.
6. Rosewood London, Holborn
Art is integral to the dining experience at Rosewood London. Order an ‘Art Afternoon Tea’ inspired by Pop Art and Cubism, or sip a cocktail in Scarfes Bar where Gerald Scarfe’s satirical paintings showcase famous faces.
Ruth Millington is an arts and culture blogger, freelance writer and art historian.
British artist and illustrator Victoria Topping describes her work as “music for the eyes”. By playing with colour, texture and form, Victoria synthesises elements of Jazz, Soul, Gospel and Disco into visual form. Victoria creates her vibrant, rhythmic prints using a combination of traditional techniques and digital technology.
She begins by building up a piece with various materials and textures - including photographs, fabrics and paint - which she then scans and prints. The artist works back into the resulting digital print with gold leaf and paint.
Victoria, can you tell us about your process?
I collect all sorts of images, from fabrics to photos and paintings. I either scan them or transfer them onto the computer and compose them all together, laying over lots of texture, colour and drawn elements. After that I print the pieces using my large giclee printer and I work back into them with gold leaf or crystals.
How does music play a role in your work?
I call my work ‘music for the eyes’. I’m constantly experimenting with ways to represent the feeling of listening to music in a visual form.
What are some of the recurring motifs across your body of work?
In all my work I am interested is representing spirit and soul. The use of the eye for me signifies the third eye looking at spirit, while hands symbolise a gesture of welcome and openness to the viewer.
What is your studio space like?
Very colourful and joyous! I share the building with a community of artists and the whole place has a great vibe to it.
What do you listen to while you work?
I love listening to all sorts of music when I work. I find modal jazz particularly good, as it really frees up my brain for creativity. I also create record sleeves, so I spend a lot of time carefully listening to the music on those records so that I can create something that reflects their content.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I feel very lucky to be doing what I love, so more of the same! I’m planning on having a big solo show with some new work next year and would love to have a bigger, snazzier studio space. I also have a very exciting book coming out soon
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