Red Bullock, 2018, Charcoal on paper
Tayloe Piggott Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of select sculptures, drawings, and prints by British artist Nicola Hicks. Due to her unique artistic style and her contribution to the visual arts, Hicks was appointed to The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). Her passion is to illustrate the human-like emotions of animals as well as the beast-like qualities of man. Showcasing artworks from 2005-2018, this retrospective exhibition offers a comprehensive look into Nicola Hick’s expansive body of work. A reception to celebrate the opening of this exhibition will be held Tuesday, July 3 from 6-8pm; all are invited to attend.
A remarkable artist, Nicola Hicks is fascinated by reinventing animal figures with bold intention as a means of cathartic play. She is driven by her pure, raw emotional connection to her artworks and instills her love for the craft in each piece. She “loves the magical feeling of having something evolve at her fingertips, that she is making something live that hasn’t lived before.” Depicting both realistic and mythical animals with extraordinary vividness that transcends mere visual fact, Hicks captures the spiritual power of beings. Bears, deer, moose, dogs or a mythic Minotaur, all of Hicks’ art is rooted in the study of anatomy and observations of life. She asserts her art has nothing to do with reality but rather with evoking a strong visceral response. She is uninterested in her work appearing as a particular animal; instead she wants the figure to be that animal.
Throwing herself into each creation, Hicks works quickly in an unselfconscious way that allows her to produce a vibrant animation. She uses unconventional materials that mirror the speed of her work. Quickly tearing off craft paper in large sheets, she uses charcoal, chalk and pastel to draw the creature bursting through her imagination. The Red Bullock exemplifies the nature of Hicks’ work. As she gesturally draws the form of the bullock she is acutely aware of when she feels the body of the animal is complete. It is at that moment that she moves on to bring out the spirit of the animal in its facial features. In Red Bullock, the animal’s feet are left unfinished, as they are not crucial to the essence of the animal. In order to realize her creations Hicks needs her materials to be adaptable. The moment a work feels “terribly finished and a bit dead” Hicks throws it away and starts again from the beginning. She designs her three-dimensional work in a similar nature through a unique sculpting process that involves plaster, mud and straw. There is straw strewn about Hicks’ studio, which she continually gathers and mixes with plaster in order to quickly erect a figure. Due to the delicate nature of her organic materials, Hicks ensures the permanency of her artworks through the meticulous process of casting them into bronze. Her sculptures are deeply impacted by Auguste Rodin, who described sculpture as “drawing with light.” Hicks strives to bring out this light within her figures. Her creatures reveal the mortality in each animal. Grey, a center sculpture in this exhibition is an ideal illustration of this vivacity. The wolf feels alive. You can see the fire in his eyes and feel his soul. This sensation is emblematic of all of Nicola Hicks’ artworks.
Nicola Hicks was born in London in 1960 and studied at the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art. The daughter of two artists, Hicks grew up producing her own art. She became an established presence among the artists of her generation at the young age of 25. In 1995, Hicks was awarded an MBE for her contribution to the visual arts. Hicks’ sculptures and drawings have been presented in numerous international museums and galleries. Hicks has completed several public commissions including large-scale sculptures at Schoenthal Monastery, Langenbruck, Switzerland. Recent solo exhibitions include Sorry, Sorry Sarajevo, St Paul’s Cathedral, London; Sculpture by Nicola Hicks at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, United States; and her work was included in The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, curated by Mark Leckey, as part of the Hayward Touring series at venues across the UK during 2013. Hicks’ work can be found in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Hakone Open Air Museum in Kanagawa, Japan, and the Castle Museum in Norwich.