ARTIST INTERVIEW- Nicola Organ
• Could you introduce yourself and your practice?
Hi, my name’s Nicola, I’m 28 years old and I live and work from my studio in Bristol. My practice stems from a fascination with natural forms and cycles; the way a cloud bubbles and shapeshifts from a wisp to a giant beast, the spiked armour of a shell protecting its softer innards, to the swollen udder of a mother cow. Through the observation and then distortion of these sorts of natural elements, I create imagined worlds, with imagined forms, that are close to our natural world, but skewed and slightly off.
• How important is drawing in the process of creating your work?
Very. It’s both a conscious way of trying to better understand the world through observation, and then as a means to translate the subconscious on to paper and into a reality. Everything starts with drawing.
• Do you have any personal symbols within your visual language?
Thorns, thistles, some sort of spiked shell, or a reimagination of those elements, tend to feature throughout my work, usually in contrast with a form that’s softer, more delicate. There’s something about the protective nature of their spikes that I enjoy; a severity and defensiveness that’s reminiscent of armour or a weapon.
Recently I’ve been introducing more human elements to the pictures, such as heraldic patterns, as a nod to epic storytelling and as a suggestion that something monumental is happening.
• Could you share a bit about your painting ‘Fanned Out Ribbed
This was one of those pictures which was already fully formed in my mind, and so translating it on to paper was easy. I didn’t make any preparatory drawings, or spend time working out the composition; I drew straight on to the watercolour paper and it appeared very quickly. It doesn’t always work out like that, sometimes I really have to fight with the picture to work out the composition, or what kind of tone I want the picture to have. This was the first iteration of that ribbed petal flower, and since then I’ve drawn various versions of it. It’s a form that I’m drawn to, and it will be popping up in more works to come, including a large oil painting I’m currently working on.
The flower itself is imagined, but it’s an amalgamation of textures that I’ve observed. The ribbed petals being influenced by the kind of gills you find in the underbelly of some mushrooms, which themselves are reminiscent of fleshy bodily layers; muscles, guts, skin etc. Their plumpness indicative of full, swollen succulent leaves, those that are so hydrated that if you were to squeeze them slightly the skin would break. The centre of the flower, and the focal point for the whole image, is this suggestive flesh-like hole, with a slippery stem weaving behind it that’s not too dissimilar to an umbilical cord.
When making this image I wasn’t consciously trying to create something that was evocative of human flesh, but clearly that’s what I’ve done, and it’s only upon reflection that I’ve been able to identify that. There’s a duality of feelings when analysing these sorts of textures, both of curiosity, wanting to see more, and then the grotesqueness of it all. So much of nature is innately bodily, whether it’s just fleshy looking or yonic or phallic or both. There’s something significant about how connected everything is.
• What is your workspace like, what are your studio essentials?
I currently live and work in a guardianship where I have both my bedroom and a studio space. The building is a 1960s brutalist build, originally built as a Steiner School, so no right angels anywhere, and makes for an interesting space to work from.
I like to have lots of work on the wall: finished pieces as well sketches or ideas that I don’t want to forget, lists, postcards of Paolo Uccello’s St. George and the Dragon and a few Freud portraits for inspiration.
Studio essentials include a stainless-steel painting pallet by Callum Partridge; it functions perfectly and is very well used, but is also in itself a piece of art and one of my most favourite objects ever. I’m not that particular when it comes to brushes, pencils or paint, but for watercolour and gouache painting I only work on Arches hot-pressed watercolour paper. I don’t like textured paper, and Arches hot-pressed is the smoothest of them all.
• Lastly, who are some of your favourite contemporary artists at the
I’m very lucky that some of my favourites are also good friends, such as Raphael Barratt, Keziah Mornin, Callum Partridge, William Brickel, Irene Montemurro and Ind Solnick. Recent discoveries include Leonardo Devito, Mary Bravo, Jakob Oksbjerg and Mary Stephensen. I’ve forever been obsessed with Maren Klarson’s work, and have been following her journey from pencil drawings of fairies in dungeons to her most recent oil paintings of abstracted mechanical anatomies, and loving all of it.