From the 8th of September to the 2nd of October 2010 – Cole Contemporary
Nicol’s paintings and drawings draw on a variety of sources, ranging from Goya, Canaletto, Dutch Genre painting and American Folk art. This compendium of sources results in the creation of an imaginary world that parodies our own, inhabited by an array of fictional characters playing out scenes of tension and conflict. Recurring images of severed limbs, weapons, crime and punishment point towards themes of anxiety, our own existence and mortality, all being played out in scenes that hover between the fantastical and historical.
Nicol’s work has an immediacy and spontaneity that draws from folk art. The looseness of the brush strokes conveys the directness associated with the naivety of outsider art, while encouraging a certain joie de vivre. However, below this light heartedness there is a more sinister edge, and this is the tension at the centre of his work. The breaking wheel was a torture device used for capital punishment in the middle ages and it this slightly grotesque background that forms the basis for much of the work. Combined with the humour and playfulness that is also present, this results in a disarming sequence of vignettes. There is also a conflict between the past and present in his work; the sadistic rituals of an imagined historical period clash with a contemporary use of materials. A number of the works hint at apocalyptic old testament tales, whilst the organization of several scenes are suggestive of the elder Bruegel. Yet this sense of a historical record is jarred through the use of colour and material and in doing so Nicol displays a cool detachment to the scenes of violence and menace, leaving his work with a disturbed air of irreverence.
Robert Nicol trained at Glasgow School of Art and the Royal College of Art. Recent shows include Is It Over, WWII Bunker, London, What Keeps The Light From Reaching Us, The Fulham Palace, London, and Bloomberg New Contemporaries. Recent commissions include work for Conde Nast, United Airlines and Laurence King Publishing.

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