Nicola Yeoman


Written by Kinsey Sullivan
18 Saturday 18th February 2012

In Waiting at the Wyer Gallery

First, let's talk a bit about your artistic history. When did you start creating, and what did you start with? Has the drive to create always been strong for you?

I guess I have grown up as a bit of a magpie, making things, collecting junk, assembling, making dens. I have had an unconventional background as I didn't study art, it’s more something which comes instinctively to me. I grew up on a farm, my whole family were (and still are) farmers, so I was fortunate in that there was always space to do things. I could make dens outside or in sheds utilizing whatever was around me, leave them for weeks, months, tinker with them, get them looking really great. 

“Art” wasn’t really something I knew anything about, and an artist was just someone that painted. I remember the first modern art gallery I ever went to on a school trip to London, the old Saatchi gallery. I must have been about 14 or 15 and I saw Richard Wilson's room filled with oil. I was mezmerised and absorbed by it. It’s one of my most vivid memories. But I never realistically thought I would have work in a gallery, or even considered art as a career path. It just wasn’t something that people 'did' where I grew up. Somehow it found me instead.

And Then.... # 5, photographed with Jo Mettson Scott

Do you think formal training in creative fields is important, or even helpful, for professional artists? Do you think that lack of traditional "art" education has affected your work, and if so, how?

I think it has maybe taken me longer to get here. It’s harder to get your work seen without the usual platforms, such as degree shows. On the up side it has meant that I have no set path to follow, so I just do what feels instinctive and without any pressure. Everything has happened very organically for me, I never set out to become an artist. I’m still not sure if that title really applies, I’m just doing what I do.

Your work is an interesting blend of bold graphics and really delicate and fragile forms. Could you talk about that juxtaposition?

Yes, there is definitely a mix in my work of bolder, more graphic work against a darker fragile world. I think that the first big, really great installation I did was the Letter E with Dan, but that was about five years ago, and the more recent work has been darker, both in colour but also thematically.

Letter E, photographed with Dan Tobin Smith

I agree, it has definitely evolved. What’s stayed the same?

There are still links for me between, say, the Letter E and the show I currently have in London at the Wyer Gallery in that both use perspective. They are built to a specific vantage point then break away as the viewer moves around them. Even the And Then.... series relies massively upon perspective, the ship is only a ship from one angle, if you moved around it the form is lost. Whether I am in a white space or in a dead, bleak forest I still approach what I’m doing in a similar way.

And Then.... # 3, photographed with Jo Mettson Scott

What was the idea behind those letters? They're really catchy.

The Alphabet series is a massive project which I’ve been collaborating on with Dan Tobin Smith. It’s really Dan's baby, but we have done quite a few of the images together. They are all ultimately stand alone photographs, the themes, meanings and interpretations behind each of them is unique and separate to that letter. The Letter X is in no way similar or thematically linked to the Letter E, both have very different stories to tell. Once they are finished, hopefully at the end of next year, the full collection of prints will be exhibited and made into a book. We have talked about remaking for the exhibition some of the original installations, so I’m hoping the Letter X gets to live once more. We haven't approached any galleries or publishers yet, that’s our next task.

Letter X, photographed with Dan Tobin Smith

Looking through your portfolio, it seems that you experiment with many different mediums and styles. Is that accurate, and if so, why is that experimentation so important?

I dont really want to be pigeon-holed, so I do keep experimenting and trying to push things further. I like using a wide range of materials and exploring their uses and potentials; it could be fabric, cement, brass or wood or found objects. I do have recurring themes and ideas which I always return to, and some materials become favorites which again I go back to using.

Last year I moved into a massive studio, and this has really given me more freedom than ever to mess around and explore different ideas. Some ideas work and I develop them further, and others I abandon. But I have the space to be working on a couple of things at once, and to leave them, keep coming back and changing them, much like the the dens of my youth. The Scrapbook Circles series, which is also part of The Wyer show, is part of an ongoing body of work which is like a visual record of my scrapbooks. They all use different materials/ objects, the only thing which unifies them is that they are circles. 

Your installations are generally pretty elaborate. How long does installation generally take?

Each piece I'd say on average takes about one week to install, but the larger they are the longer it takes! I work on things for quite a while, maybe a month or two beforehand, developing ideas, experimenting with different materials and collecting objects.

Scrapbook Circles #2, photographed by Nicola Yeoman

The most obvious question, but nevertheless an interesting one, what inspires you?

Yorkshire and the farm are my biggest inspiration. After that it’s mostly things which remind me of it, from derelict empty sheds and buildings, to machinery, cogs, implements, to nature itself, its brutality more than its beauty, and probably isolation. I like lone places, or lone things, something with a history or story that has been left to rot. I'm a country girl at heart, but like the hard mix of the city too, which I think is probably evident in my work.

Nicola's show will be on display at The Wyer Gallery until 17 March. 

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