Uncloaking the Mystery with Nick Sheehy September 17 2018
Nick Sheehy is an Australian-born artist and illustrator living in London. After studying bronze sculpture in the wilds of Tasmania, Nick gave up on art only to rediscover his love of drawing whilst living in London, sparked by an interest in the city’s low brow art, illustration, street art, and graffiti.
We interviewed Nick about the textures in his work, the primal nature of his paintings and his body of work for his upcoming show, Cloaked. There are also some sneak peeks of his paintings for the show below.
Some of the animals and objects you depict seem to embody an otherworldly textural finish. How did these textures come to evolve?
The textures evolved as a way to make the things I was drawing seem more real, more likely to exist, yet of another time and place. The texture, warping, and sagging was also a way of showing that the animals shared a common environment, where a certain stress had impacted on them. Kinda like a freak gravity, or a weirder evolutionary mutation.
We’ve noticed that life and death and a form of primal struggle make a regular appearance in your works. Can you explain further what this means to you?
Sometimes I paint death when certain things in my life are coming to an end. Sometimes I paint more life when the opposite happens. Or it can be a reaction to my environment at the time: more flowers in spring; death in winter. I'm also interested in things being both alive and dead at the same time. The idea of struggle is more of a response to environmental concerns: deforestation; mistreatment of animals; pollution; over population; depletion of resources – the usual cheery stuff.
We are curious about the meaning behind the vein-like tendrils in a lot of your works. What do they represent?
They can shift in meaning depending on how I'm feeling or how I'm approaching the artwork. Primarily they represent a life force of sorts; an energy that can come from inside or outside of living things. Sometimes they're a source of connectedness between living things, beyond an ecological sense. Recently I've been trying to make the tendrils more random and abstract. Almost as if they're living creatures or plants, interacting and adjusting and growing with their surroundings.
What do you enjoy about painting?
Painting is relaxation and meditation and escape. I love creating worlds, moods, etc, as a way of processing life – I guess much like your brain creates dreams as a way of processing your experiences. Sometimes the paintings are vaguely literal, and sometimes they're just something that I fancy painting. The more I think about it, the less I'm aware about how I feel towards painting; drawing has been such a big part of my life for so long now, that I'm not sure how to look at it objectively.
Take us through a day in the life of Nick Sheehy.
Nothing too glamorous. This year has been busy, so most days involve getting up early, eating breakfast (I'm a prisoner to my blood sugar levels), walking to the studio and get painting by 9:30am. Work until 6pm. Walk home. Cook dinner to relax. Then either more sketching or painting until 10pm. Then finish. I'm more productive when I approach it as a 9-5 thing. I can't do sleep-ins, or painting late at night. And I'm trying to keep my RSI in check.
Are there any artists you currently follow that are a source of inspiration?
There are so many great artists out there. James Jean and Femke Hiemstra are big influences, as are Durer, Bosch, Blake (both Quentin and William), etc.
Tell us about the body of work you’ve been painting for your show at Outré Gallery.
Following on from a narrative-based exhibition with Talon Gallery, I wanted to return to a more sculptural approach – hoping to place less emphasis on story, and more on atmosphere and form. Where the sometimes erratic, sometimes fortuitous layering of familiar forms, shapes, and beasts evoke an unexpected mood and spirit. Hopefully allowing the viewer more scope to imprint their own interpretation.
Do you have any plans in the pipeline – art-related and/or otherwise?
I'm currently working on an exciting book project about extinction and the crazy-looking animals that once roamed this planet. It was due to be published later this year, but after further development meetings with the publisher, it looks like we're aiming for completion around 2020. I'd previously cleared my schedule of all upcoming projects. So apart from drawing extinct animals, I have nothing in the pipeline. Which is a great feeling. It's been a busy time recently. The thought of a few weeks of no painting is nice. Gives the grey cells a good chance to reset.
Thank you for your time, Nick. We are greatly looking forward to your show.
Cloaked by Nick Sheehy
21 September – 9 October
Opening night 6pm, Friday, 21 September