You may have read about Nicola Wiltshire recently in The Guardian, where she was named as an “artist to watch” (May 2017). She was also been described as “One of the most exciting young artists in Britain” by the curator at Hartlepool Art Gallery (October 2016).
Nicola graduated in 2015 and has already had her first solo show, with a further 2 solo shows scheduled for 2017 – she is currently Artist In Residence at Halley Stevenson, Dundee.
Nicola’s paintings are as much about process as they are about subject. Painted in high-pigment layers on coloured and patterned fabric, her work features scenes from ordinary life, painted in a style that references art history, whilst at the same time embodying her own unique aesthetic. Bold forms, intense colour and heavy lines are the language through which Nicola describes local landscapes, but also the people and objects she encounters. As well as working on fabric, Nicola makes her own paint using the traditional technique of grinding pigment into oil.. “I am very lucky to have been taught the benefits of using the best quality oil paint brands such as Michael Harding, Old Holland and Vasari. This experience and understanding has led me on to make my own paints using the centuries-old technique of grinding pigment into oil.
This starts as a traditional process, but it allows me to use more contemporary materials such as ground aluminium to make my paint. Making paint feels like an important way of understanding the history of painting, but it also teaches me about colour, a feature that is particularly important in my work.”
“For Pittenweem Art Festival, I have been working on ‘Liberty Landscapes’, a series of lush Scottish landscapes painted on beautiful fabric by Liberty of London. The inspiration for this collection comes from exploring Pittenweem and the surrounding area, but also as far afield as Pitlochry and The Cairngorm Mountains. I always paint on good quality fabric, instead of canvas or linen. I find that the story of the fabric weaves its way into the story of the painting, in particular during this project, when my ‘blank canvas’ becomes the unique design and rich heritage of the Liberty brand.”
“I have been painting on fabric for over ten years, most recently producing a series of paintings on waxed cotton as part of a residency with Halley Stevenson, who manufacture waxed cotton from their factory in Dundee. Painting the factory workers on the same fabric they helped create influences the story of the work, particularly when Halley Stevenson’s clients include staple British companies such as Barbour. These stories and relationships act as a starting point for my paintings, which, above all, aim to capture the magic and surrealism of everyday life.”
Traditional oil paintings are made by stretching cotton or linen over a wooden frame. In Nicola’s paintings however, she begins with a surface of colour, pattern and texture by integrating fabric into the process of making her work. She has developed an excellent knowledge as to what makes a surface good to paint on.
“With 10 years experience, I have developed a way of working with fabric that allows me to achieve a more dynamic surface texture, without compromising on the quality and longevity offered by traditional cotton and linen.”
“My work is all about layering meaning, as well as layering paint, so by using fabric as the base of my painting, I am able to integrate the story of the fabric into the story of the painting. This has become a source of inspiration for the way I work, but it also offers a beautiful textural contrast between the fabric and the paint. A benefit of this is you don’t have to frame the painting, because the sides of the canvas merge into the surface.”