The Artist of the Month feature is back after a break. Each month a member of the art.earth Board of Directors selects a member to feature, to become our Artist of the Month. What follows is a response from that artist to some questions and a discussion, together with some examples of their work.
This month (March 2022) our featured artist is Nicola Coe, selected by Richard Povall.
Tell us about you and your work:
‘I always say that I am an artist who makes work with nature, for nature.’
I was lucky enough to spend my childhood in large gardens, which held magical ‘wild’ spaces, where I was able to while away hours noticing and playing with the natural world. I spent most of these informative years with my nose in nature books and drawing from them, when I wasn’t outside.
I studied Fine Art over thirty years ago, but had to stop practising it regularly because of family life and children with special needs. When I returned to my art about ten years ago, the passion for the natural world was as strong as it had always been, but this time climate change, threatened species and habitat loss began to creep into my work. Initially I began to experiment with using natural colours to create images as a way of acknowledging the changing environment around me. I wanted to find a way to connect my life outside, in the garden and beyond, with life in the studio.
My work today is sculptural, where I use natural materials, ethically collected from the landscapes around my home, along with natural inks and pigments and a general conscientious approach to the ‘art’ materials I use.
I am particularly drawn to the parts of the natural world that often get overlooked or misunderstood. The architectural homes of creatures particularly fascinate me, and within my work I am attempting to offer the viewer both a beautiful and intriguing object to enjoy, as well as a gentle underlying conservation message.
To recreate a bird or insect nest and display it within situations which offer a gentle message of care and awareness for our wildlife, and its vulnerability, is core to my work.
I also enjoy creating occasional two dimensional works, including what I call ‘walking maps’. For these I use ‘tools’ which I have created from natural finds to ‘walk’ across the paper, mirroring the patterns of footsteps we leave behind on a real walk.
Walking seems to be such a profound way that people connect with the landscapes and the natural world around them. I enjoy breaking a ‘walk’ down in to visual form very much, for the viewer to enjoy and contemplate their own walking practice and what it means to them.
What are you currently working on :
My current project is one that will be exhibited at the Cley and Salthouse Marshes NWT Nature Reserve, in April 2022. Called ENCIRCLE, it is a self-led residency, where I have walked, watched and listened within the reserve over the past year or so. I have collated material and experiences to produce a body of work which reflects the nesting birds that can be seen on the reserve.
I have seven sculptural pieces to show, alongside a walking map and 2D works that reflect the size of the nests I have come across and studied. I really hope the works will open up the viewers’ eyes to some of the different nest structures that birds create, as well as the importance of looking after the habitats breeding birds need to be successful, both within the reserve and back at ‘home’.
Following this, I will be making my way down through East Anglia, using the same working methods and subject matter, finally completing the journey at Fingringhoe Wick Nature reserve in Essex in 2023.
My everyday working practice, as such, involves working with nest structures, eggs and feather drawings. In the summer, I am looking forward to starting a series of works based on the flight paths of birds and insects. These will likely be 2D works, tracing flight lines with inks and hand made tools on paper.
I usually spend a portion of every day in my studio, surrounded by a wildlife garden I have created over the last ten years.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature, of course! It inspires and surprises me every day.
I love collecting old wildlife books and using them for reference and inspiration. The information within them brings both a sense of being overjoyed and saddened by how our attitudes have changed over the last hundred years or so on conservation. The books in particular can shock, particularly those from my own childhood, when species that were abundant then are today near to extinction.
I am always inspired by those people I meet at the wildlife reserves. Their knowledge and enthusiasm is unending, and the enthusiasm that they have in turn for the work that I am doing is so inspiring. It helps give me a feeling of authenticity for what I do.
I am also particularly drawn to conceptual artists who work with the natural world. I enjoy the sensation of being a part of a group of like-minded individuals, through Instagram and in my community, who all care as much as I do about conservation and awareness. The deep sense of shared learning and support I find in these groups gives me invaluable confidence in my artistic practice.
And finally, walking – in particular, walking alone (dogs are allowed!) in natural landscapes, where the seasons never fail to prompt ideas with their beauty and ever-changing wildlife.