Interview: Catherine Nickford | ITSLIQUID

Interview: Catherine Nickford

Interviews | June 29, 2023 |

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

Interview: Catherine Nickford
Luca Curci
talks with Catherine Nickford during FUTURE LANDSCAPES, third event of BORDERS ART FAIR 2023 in Venice, at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.

Catherine is a mostly self-taught artist based in Westminster, London. After a brief spell at attending art school, she went on to study law and later an MA in philosophy. She has also published a paper on the nature of consciousness through the International Society of Philosophers (Issue No. 211 of ISSN 2043-0728). Whilst Catherine is currently a practising lawyer, she remains an extremely devoted artist. Catherine specialises in fine ink drawing, from which she occasionally creates digital adaptations. She creates complex and detailed surreal drawings, mostly expansive. She also does a number of portrait commissions. Catherine has so far exhibited her work in Athens, Barcelona, Salzburg and Venice.

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

Luca Curci – What is the trigger that leads you to paint?
Catherine Nickford
– For me, each one of my artworks produces a satisfyingly cathartic way of visually documenting the bizarre dreams formed from my collective subconscious. It is also a way of escaping many of the monotonies of day-to-day life. Although my drawings are largely based on geometric frameworks, I still improvise on my compositions within these frameworks. It is the spontaneous element of improvisation which I find most exciting. If I make errors within the drawings, I usually leave them in and work around them, transforming them into something entirely unpredictable.

LC – Which artists have somehow had an influence on your work?
– For content, the surreal masters Hieronymus Bosch and Max Ernst have been my greatest inspirations and influences, both for their foreboding dreamscapes and highly innovative explorations of the unconscious. Having spent a lot of time in South East Asia, much of my aesthetic inspiration comes from two of the greatest masters of Japanese monochrome ink; namely Tenshō Shūbun and Sesshū Toyo. I am particularly fond of monochrome ink because, with the viewer no longer led by colour, it is the formation and patterns that instead guide how the viewer experiences the artwork. My work therefore tends to follow the aesthetic of Sumi-e, traditional Japanese monochrome ink painting; a technique first developed in China during the Sung dynasty and taken to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks in the mid-14th century. In technical terms, my work is also significantly influenced by the dynamic symmetry proportional system found in such works as da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the armature of the circle found within the Psalter of Blanche of Castille and many Gothic illuminations. Once I have outlined the mathematical grid structures, I then fit into them my (mostly improvised) compositional elements. The use of geometric frameworks is a very important element of my work, as, for me, art also lies beyond pure aesthetics… its structural framework encompasses and shapes every aspect of our physical existence.

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

LC – Is there an unrealised or unrealisable project, even a crazy one, that you would like to work on?
– I am currently working on a large-scale triptych, which is the biggest project I have taken on so far. This work will feature stained glass panelling, and it is envisaged to take many months to finalise. The glass medium being used lies quite outside my usual inkwork comfort zone, which makes this a particularly exciting project.

LC – What are the three hashtags essential to define your poetics that you could not give up?
– #Symmetry, #surrealism, and the #bizarre … these are the three main essential components of my work! All three are essential to me in equal measure.

LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
– In addition to the influences of Hieronymus Bosch and Max Ernst (as described above) my inspiration derives from a combination of dreams from my collective subconscious and the principles of ‘sacred geometry’ in nature. I am also greatly drawn to esoteric imagery found in hermeticism under the period of Late Antiquity. Esoteric art, for me, embraces an enchanted ideology in the face of disenchantment.

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

LC – In which way is the artwork presented in our exhibition connected with the exhibition’s theme?
– This year’s exhibition, ‘Future Landscapes’, focuses on the concept of ‘borders’, between the soul and the body, the human being and the urban space, the city and the ground. One of my works exhibited shows the Greek Goddess ‘Hecate’, who is traditionally associated with borders, city walls, doorways, crossroads and, by extension, with realms outside or beyond the word of the living. She appears to have been particularly associated with being ‘between’ and hence is frequently characterized as a “liminal” goddess. Beneath her lies her Stropholos (wheel) encompassing her other two phases as mother and crone and a labyrinthine serpent, representative of reincarnation and rebirth. My other work, ‘Chang’e’ is based on Chinese legend, and depicts the Chinese moon Goddess (Chang’e) as the central focal point. The Goddess is said to have been banished from Heaven by the Jade Emperor and forced to live on Earth as an ordinary mortal. During the Autumn Moon festival in China, in the eighth lunar month, an altar would be set up for her worshippers. The advent of the full moon in the eighth month signals the rising of the yin element in the annual cosmological cycle. In this piece, Chang’e is portrayed against the backdrop of a Western cathedral, promoting the idea of interfaith and the union between Eastern and Western civilisations.

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
– All my works exhibited at the Borders International Art Fair are hand drawn in Sakura ink, and both feature bilateral symmetry to suggest the concept of a mirror universe between the mortal and the immortal.

LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
– Itsliquid is an excellent opportunity to gain international exposure, and I would highly recommend this to all emerging artists.

LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
– My invitation to exhibit at this gallery was completely unexpected and I was delighted to have been chosen. I thoroughly enjoyed working with Amaride Ferrante as co-ordinator of the exhibition, and Luca Curci, Director and Curator. It was an honour for my works to be exhibited at such a beautiful venue, namely the 16th-century Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice. I would like to thank the entire team at ItsLiquid for their impeccable professionalism, friendliness and organisation. In particular, I would like to thank Amaride for assisting me so diligently with the postal and customs formalities.

LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
– Highly professional service, with excellent handling of shows. My art was taken seriously and handled with exceptional care, and shown in such a beautiful venue.

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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford
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Image courtesy of Catherine Nickford

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