Barbara Nicholls’ monumental watercolour works emerge by manipulating the behaviour of pigment in ever-increasing quantities of water. They have associations with geological forms touching on collective memories of the experience of natural spaces, of the landscape and of the body.
The artist engages in a performative process to create these works. Large sheets of paper are laid flat on the floor. She then embarks on a process of applying pigment, pouring water and allowing it to rest in pools, tilting and manoeuvring the paper and often employing rows of electric fans to create a breeze, causing movement and evaporation.
Water can be a powerful force in shaping the natural landscape and similarly it is used to create these epic watercolours. The process of making resonates with ways in which the landscape is formed.
‘When I create my watercolours on paper I recall places I have experienced and others I imagine as the work forms. Some seen and others sensed. I remember ancient meandering pathways; natural and man-made dams and bridges across rivers; the controlled carrying of water in aqueducts and canals; flooded fields with lines of debris left behind after the water has retreated; tide marks on beaches; cumulus clouds over hills reflected in ponds; coloured mineral and sediments forming lines on the banks of rivers; varying depths and shapes of geological layers in cliffs and quarries revealing past events and movements of the earth. R0bert Smithson wrote
‘The mind, one’s mind, and the Earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers water away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought. Ideas decompose into stones of unknowing...’ Barbara Nicholls.
“Nicholls has followed the idiosyncrasies in the behaviour of her materials and has orchestrated them into resonant shapes that, while never declaring themselves in any specific identity, nonetheless touch collective memories of the experience of natural spaces, of the landscape. In that way, she formulates a new reality”. Martin Holman
Special Exhibition Price £20
28 x 23 cms, 128 pages, 110 illustrations
Text Martin Holman