Nicola Tyson @ Sadie Coles

Nicola Tyson
A Tendency to Flock
Sadie Coles (Davies St)


Nectar, 2017, acrylic on linen (182.9 x 182.9 x 3.8 cm)


I’m realising more and more that I’m a total sucker for a White Cube-esque industrial gallery space with shiny floors – and Sadie Coles HQ on Davies street is definitely that. Nicola Tyson’s 7 highly chromatic, metamorphic canvases stick out like beautiful sore thumbs against the stark white walls.

Nicola Tyson is a jack of many trades : photography, performance, a bit of written word and sculpture, but here we see what she is arguably best at – her paintings. She was born in the UK but abandoned us in the early 90’s to go to New York after attending Chelsea School of Art and Central St Martins. So she certainly has the pedigree!

I would class Nicola as a contemporary surrealist who wouldn’t feel out of place at White Cube’s ‘Dreamers Awake’ . Her working practice includes sketching the form-to-be quickly so as to avoid rational thought creeping in and dictating how or what she is doing, calling to mind the surrealist technique of automatic writing  – bringing to the fore a subconscious image that grows organically, without the semantics of language getting in the way. She then works up selected images in acrylic using a dry brush and acidic colours, creating the dynamic brush strokes you see without the need for heavy impasto. The surface is so even that the result is slightly cartoonish. The brush strokes tend to be merely suggestive of what is going on, rather than descriptive. I still can’t quite figure out whats happening in Flyover (2017) – some sort of strutting bird the English countryside?! Please tell me Nicola!

Her amorphous subjects ( if you can identify them- you might need the clues in the titles), include both human figures and creatures (sometimes a mix?!) that merge into the background as a single whirlwind. They are descriptions of human experience in the light of the social gaze, and indeed of feminine experience; being female herself, her automatic writing style of sketching implicitly describes her own personal feminine experience and rejects an objectifying approach.

Themes of identity, gender and sexuality are the fundamental basis for her work. In one of the show’s highlights, Square Self Portrait (2017), Nicola looks out at us, inviting our gaze- vulnerable but sure of herself, which gives her a deep humanity. All of a sudden, we don’t quite know how to comprehend her.



More Here

I’ve been doing a little bit more digging into Nicola Tyson and noticed that she has another show coming up in London at The Drawing Room! Beyond the Trace opening 28th September, and in a talk with Adrian Searle the day before. It looks to be really interesting since drawing is such a crucial stage in her artistic process.

She will also be appearing in a group show next year at Whitechapel gallery: Creating Ourselves – The Self in Art.


Installation shot (seen here: Scent, Square Self Portrait, Outside 1. All 2017)


Installation shot (Left: Leap, Right: Flyover)

Outside 2, 2017, acrylic on linen (182.9 x 152.4 x 3.8 cm)


Collector notes

  • Impressive roster of exhibition history here
  • In the public collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; The Corcoran Gallery of Art at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Tate Gallery, London.
  • Represented by Sadie Coles in the UK, and Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York

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