Central to Nick Fox’s painting practice is his fascination with narratives, often subversive, and in combination with domestic objects, drawing and context specific installation.
Building on the delicate relationship between fine art and craft, his visual research explores representational and material orthodoxies in painting languages though two symbiotic strands: a physical exploration of the narrative potential of the paint material and the exploration of visual and symbolic codes of romantic desire and explicit eroticism, reflected in historical pictorial systems and personal codes of concealment.
His seductive drawings, mirrored paintings and craft objects reveal an intoxicating blend of graphic sexual imagery and Victorian floriography, creating elusive narratives and unsustainable utopias. Fox’s imaginary landscapes are seductive, luring the viewer ever deeper. Drawing on a vast bank of sources, Fox transforms the found taboo image and context (of photo-reproduction porn or fashion) into one of intimate and emotive experience. Languorous male figures emerge from his sensual and craquelure surfaces while overlaid botanical imagery fuses a symbolic role to his themes of desire, longing and loss. These tantalising idylls and elusive narratives are often rendered in dark or overripe colour that, along with his painting process, create a toxic fog, an Eden after the fall, one where innocence has been banished.
Major Projects such as Unveiled with Francis Picabia at MOCA London, have enabled Fox to make new work which reflects on the erotic narratives of historical paintings. This project, in counterpoint with Picabia’s Femme aux Perles, resulted in the production of a number of significant works including “Tableaux”, an 18ft site specific painting which was draped under the museums collection of texts. Other works from this series included Parlour, selected for Jerwood Contemporary Painters 2007, touring Nationally to London, Cardiff and Manchester.
Recent Projects include touring Solo exhibitions Phantasieblume and Nightsong.
Phantasieblume's research explores the interrelations and contradictions between drawing and painting, fine art and craft, investigating the potential significance of deliberately blurring these boundaries.
Utilizing the traditional material of paint, Fox developed innovative ‘cutting’ technique: a labour-intensive process that signifies devotion. This enabled a new exploration of the contemporary currency, symbol and cultural meaning of longing, seduction, desire and romance. Applying layers of ink and acrylic paint directly onto glass, intricately cut, he thus created and exhibited a series of skins of paint, “drawings” and “paintings”, which subvert the traditions and expectations of those mediums.
Reference points include: Neo classical and Vanitas painting, Victorian visual culture, literature, craft, pornography and subcultural codes. Fox draws upon floriography, the secret language of flowers that was a Victorian cultural phenomenon using flowers as tokens to communicate hidden or forbidden pleasures within normative courtship rituals. Fox was also informed by the mechanics of underground courtship rituals where floriographic imagery was employed through a range of Fin de siècle Literature sources (Wilde and Huysman etc) to indicate secrecy, sex, taboo and sexual encounter. The subsequent wide scale and public definition of floral codes exemplified by Kate Greenaway’s 1884 “dictionary” The Language of Flowers, marked the migration of its meaning from the potent to the polite, underground to the normative, the real to the artificial, the sexual to the sentimental.
‘Phantasieblume’ was developed as a series of solo presentations at C4RD (London 2009), VANE Gallery (Newcastle 2010) and Hå gamle prestegard (Norway 2011). Dialogues between craft and innovation in contemporary fine art practice were explored through group drawing exhibitions at Fruehsorge Contemporary Drawings (Berlin), The Burton Art Gallery & Museum (Bideford) and Torrence Art Museum (LA).
‘Metatopia’, a work from this series, was awarded a Major Prize in the John Moores Contemporary Painting Prize (2010) and has since become part of the National Museums Collection (2012). It is currently on permanent display at Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.
‘Phantasieblume’ was further contextualized and disseminated in an artist monograph (2010), which featured essays and text contributions by Philip Austander, Stephanie Brown, Paul Stone, Andrew Hewish, George Chakravarthi, Matthew Hearn and Clive Jennings. Funded by Newcastle University and ACE, partnered with the National Glass Centre, Art Editions North and Centre for Recent Drawing as part of the prestigious Documents for Recent Drawing series, the book was distributed internationally by Cornerhouse, Manchester. A second edition of the monograph was also produced in Prussian blue, with a limited signed Artists print (50 copies)
‘Nightsong’ is a substantive grouping of artworks, events, exhibitions and a publication exploring the personal symbol and cultural meaning of longing, seduction, desire and loss. It includes distinctive glass objects, sculptures, drawings, paintings, video installation and live events. The research explored a range of contemporary modes of practice spanning and blurring fine art and craft.
‘Nightsong’ questions the elusive emotional register of sentiment, wisdom and emotional experience through symbol, material and visual art form. Fox’s research is specifically informed by mythologies of romantic idealization, longing and coded articulations of desire. Individual works in ‘Nightsong’ explore the physical and emotional instability, and the bittersweet intensification of longing, that comes as a result of rejection and loss.
One of the outcomes of ‘Nightsong’ is The Longing Archive, a collection of physical examples of the languages of social courtship and the ephemera of romance. Two live-art projects analysed and disseminated this subject matter: Write a Love Letter, through which members of the public were invited to submit their own love letters to the archive, building a unique record of contemporary desires, and Longing Disco, a live art event in which participants submitted song choices connected to their own courtship stories, creating a performance exploring the relationships between music, sentiment and longing.
The research also culminated in a series of objects influenced by diverse sources including 7th Century stained glass, Neoclassical painting, Fin de Siècle literature, decorative glass, floriographic imagery and lunar mythologies. Through original, labour-intensive methodologies, the research developed and extended Fox’s ongoing exploration of the tradition of devotion to labour as an enduring token of sentiment. Compared to Fox’s earlier research (notably in Phantasieblume), ‘Nightsong’ “seeks out a more direct index between raw sentiment and its visual articulation” (Matthew Hearn in his critical text, commissioned by Hå gamle prestegard to accompany the exhibition ‘Phantasieblume Nachtlied’)
A limited edition, spoken word vinyl contains a sequential listing of all the 118 songs submitted for The Longing Disco held on the 1st February 2013 at Vane, Newcastle. Each song choice is followed by contributors’ personal stories of longing, either recorded by the contributors themselves or, in the case of written submissions, anonymously narrated. For more information on the Longing Disco, or to listen to the submitted stories, please visit: http://www.nickfoxart.com/The_Longing_Disco/The_Longing_Disco.html
‘Nightsong: Nick Fox’ was published by Art Editions North in 2013, with essays by Michael Petry and Matthew Hearn, plus an interview with Grainne Sweeney and Nick Fox.
Exhibited at VANE, Newcastle (2012-13) and at Hå gamle prestegard, Stavanger, Norway (2011), as well as in numerous group exhibitions, the research was funded through a National Glass Centre Sunderland residency (2009-2010), Arts Council England and Newcastle University
CV & Education
2009 - Phantasieblume, Centre for Recent Drawing, London
2007 - Nectary, Lawrence Graham Project Space, London
2006 - Nick Fox: New Paintings, Royal Academy Schools Gallery, Hornsey, London
2006 - Unveiled with Francis Picabia, MOCA, London
2009 - 40 Artists 80 Drawings, The Drawing Gallery, London
2009 - Hines Urban Gallery, Grafton Street, London
2008 - Baltic Square, Arena Gallery, Liverpool Biennial
2007 - New British Painters, Flora Fairbairn projects, London
2006 - This Longing: Nick Fox & Nigel Ellis, The Drawing Gallery, London
2005 - Seventeen Presents, Seventeen Gallery, London
2005 - Twisted Nerve, Keller & Greene, Los Angeles
2007 - Jerwood Contemporary Painters, Jerwood Space, London (touring to BayArt, Cardiff and The Lowry, Salford), London, Cardiff, Salford
2005 - lekker, A.P.T. gallery, London
2003 - vanitas, Raid Projects, Los Angeles
2006 - Nick Fox New paintings and Unveiled, Published by MOCA London, ISBN: 0-9552577-0-0