A Gentle Misinterpretation and other works, interview by Jack Appleton, 2016
GRIFT: How would you describe your work to the uninitiated & what motives have driven your practice, to get you where you are today?
Nicholls: I work across a number of mediums, most importantly drawing, but also ceramics and, increasingly in recent years, photography. I’m primarily interested in power, and how power has been played out through aesthetics historically, so I like to reference styles that haven’t been treated in especially high regard by the ‘powers that be’ in the art world for much of the past few centuries of Western culture - the decorative, illustration, the domestic…and also I suppose, the opposite of that, properly ‘high art’ in the historical sense, by which I mean imperial and religious patronage – the two extremes of aesthetics, historically, I guess. I’m interested in aesthetics that are maybe taken for granted now, or have lost the significance that they once had, and in trying to make explicit some of the power-play that underpinned them, visual material that we might be inclined to think of as benign, but that historically sat at the nexus of really unpleasant and significant historical events, and reflected different attitudes of marginalisation based on class, gender, race, and so on. I then employ camp as a strategy to deal with this marginalisation. I ‘camp on’ various historical tropes as a way of re-empowering myself, and – hopefully - on behalf of other maginalised people who have tended to be excluded from history.
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