We are extremely excited for Darren Nixon’s new exhibition at HOME mcr, cleverly titled ‘Coming soon to your screen’, so when he agreed to be our November Manc of the Month, we were pretty chuffed.
His work forces you to look at paintings and spaces in a whole new way. He doesn’t restrict his work to one type of medium, but explores a number of paths in the development of the piece. Not knowing at the beginning of a piece, what it will be at the end, and that’s pretty cool.
Darren Nixon: ‘I definitely prefer not to know exactly what I am working on until quite late on in the process. I work on different parts at the same time and allow each element to develop, not quite separately from each other, but kind of running alongside each other until it becomes clearer what their relationship is with each other. If I feel like I know too early on what direction a piece is going I can run the risk of losing interest in seeing it through. If I can see in my head what the work looks like before I have made it I don’t really see the point in making it anymore.’
This is why his work is fascinating. Each piece is something new, responding to new locations, new mediums, new collaborations. And that’s exactly what the new exhibition at HOME will be. So read the rest of the interview below to find out more.
CO: How would you describe your work?
DN: ‘My work is always based in painting initially, but it extends into other areas which vary from project to project. That can be site-responsive sculpture, photography, video, performance, sound work. Basically whatever I am interested in at that point in time, and what I think works for the ideas I am looking at right now.’
‘I try to use my work to consider the places in which different ways of working overlap and how they speak to each other at these points. For example, the way time folds into video differs from the way it sits within paintings; the way the human body is addressed in a durational performance work against how a sculptor treats it; how the same space is occupied by a sound piece and by a dance performance in very different ways. I am not looking to put points of view on these things across in my work, so much as using the work to open up a space where I can think about them.’
‘I just want to keep pushing my work in as many ways as I can. I don’t really know exactly where I want it to go and that’s one of the things I enjoy about it all. Each project is a chance to try something new and see if there is something there that’s worth pursuing.’
CO: You have an upcoming exhibition at HOME mcr, can you tell us more about that?
DN: ‘The work for HOME will be a large piece across two walls which will work as a wall drawing/painting, as well as a site of performance during the length of the show. I will be going into HOME while the venue is being prepped for opening in the morning, and performing among and activating the work in various ways, all while recording myself. The stuff I photograph and film will then become the basis of video based work that will take shape during and after the period of the show.’
‘My interest in this piece is ideas of stillness and movement within painting and animation, performance and film, wall and screen. Because of where the work will be located I am especially interested in the relationship between the painting support and the cinema screen, and how time is captured across each one.’
CO: How would you describe your studio space and the way you work in it?
DN: ‘My space is usually a total tip. I tend to work on a lot of things at the same time. Each project normally requires me to make lots of parts, and I’m normally trying out and testing the beginnings of a few things at once. By the end of a project there is usually very little room to move. I try to plan things better every time but each project normally ends with a panic and me trying to get lots of bits of painted stuff to dry quicker than they want to.’
CO: In one of the videos for Rogue Artists you say that is it ‘quite difficult to be a painter these days’ – What do you mean by that?
DN: ‘I didn’t mean it in a ‘Woe is me. Life is so hard for painters’ way. I wanted to talk about the fact that painting, as an activity, sometimes seems quite hard to justify for a number of reasons. My work is trying to find ways to justify the act of putting paint on stuff at this point in time. Trying to find ways of working with painting that keep me interested and seem worthwhile.’
CO: We saw a piece of your work recently at Scenius exhibtion at Bunker Gallery, ‘Best General View’. Can you tell us more about that?
DN: ‘Best General View’ is the second of two collaborative works made with photographer Stephen Iles. These were the first times I decided to make painted works that were developed to explicitly address the camera. In each case the stuff I painted and built was never shown physically but only as captured on the screen. I wanted to see if I could present a mediated experience of the objects which sat apart from, but offered something just as interesting, as a physical encounter with the painted objects.’
‘The title is based on signs that used to be displayed beside sites of outstanding natural beauty to show visitors where the ‘best general view’ of the location was to be found. These signs themselves were tied up in romantic notions of the sublime experience within nature and how it could be most effectively accessed. This idea of a formula for accessing the sublime just seemed very strange to me but also central to what a lot of what painting’s history has been about.’
CO: Do you have a favourite piece of work/one you are most proud of?
DN: ‘Not really. There are pieces which were really important at the time for me like, ‘Static’ – the first piece Stephen Iles and I made together – or the work I did earlier this year during my Standpoint Futures residency which involved collaborating with 18 different people over six weeks. But when I look back on specific pieces the only things I can see are where they fell short and what they did not manage to capture. I feel like the work still has so far to go but then that is what drives each new piece.’
CO: What’s been the best exhibition you have visited?
DN: ‘There are two shows that were really key in terms of how my work has shifted and the directions it has taken. The first was a Thomas Hirschhorn show I saw while in Porto. The second was Phyllida Barlow, ‘Rig’, at Hauser and Wirth. With both shows I was just blown away by the fact that painting could have that kind of physical presence but without being self-absorbed or serious about itself.’
‘But in terms of a show that I just never wanted to walk out of it was a joint show of Mondrian and Ben Nicholson at The Courtauld Institute. I would choose standing in front of a great Mondrian painting over almost any gallery experience I have ever had.’
CO: What advice would you give budding artists?
DN: ‘I’m not sure I am fit to give advice to anybody about what they should and should not do. I would definitely not do things the way I have. It took me so long to begin to figure out what kind of work I wanted to make and I’m not entirely sure I know still. I guess that does lead onto one piece of advice and that is to not be afraid to make work that might be terrible. There’s no point making stuff that you know is fine but comes with no risk attached. There is nothing to be learnt from making that work. Try stuff that might not work and puts you in places you don’t feel entirely comfortable in. That’s when I feel I really start to get something from what I am doing.’
CO: You have 5 people, dead or alive, that you can invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
DN: ‘I think probably my girlfriend and four of our friends. Meeting your heroes is bad enough but eating with them would be so much worse. Almost all of my biggest heroes would make really difficult dinner guests – Nina Simone, Mark E Smith, Piet Mondrian, John Cassavetes, Siouxsie Sioux, Albert Camus. It would be awful.’
CO: If you could live in any painting/artwork, which would it be?
DN: ‘Piet Mondrian, ‘Broadway Boogie Woogie’. So frantic but so still.’