For the latest in After Nyne’s Spotlights series, Daniel David Gothard meets Nicholas Bradshaw.
Bradshaw got his degrees in History, English Literature and Buildings Conservation. For many years he mistook himself for a writer inthe making until he found his true vocation in creating collage while trying to illustrate one of his stories.
The images took over. A love and knowledge of the arts gives him a vast array of images to choose from while making his artworks and the collages are full of references to well known painters and historical figures. His is a romantic even baroque vision.
Bradshaw makes all his pieces by hand which he believes helps invention, since as he says, ‘I am never quite sure what I shall make until I finish it’.
What Inspires Your Work?
If I look at my work the main inspirations seem to be English History, Western painting, the Ballet and London.
Ballet is a relatively recent obession. The idea of telling a story and describing an emotion without words fashionates me, as does the spectacle and structure of the performance.The ballet forces me to actually look at bodies when most of the time I seem to be looking through them in search of my own desires. Learning to look thats the start of art. I find incidentually that I am completely unable to make a collage without human figures.
What Do You Consider to Be Your Greatest Artistic Achievement to Date and Why?
Greatest achievement? That is hard to say. After I have finished a collage I usually loss interest in it or start to pick holes in it. I like to think the next work and the one after that will be my greatest achievement. I do have some favourites though, I think I like best a crowded composition which works well as a whole but whose parts tell different stories.
What is Your View of ‘Art For Art’s Sake’? Do You Feel Your Work Needs An Audience to Be Complete?
There is a vanity at the centre of each artist, we all believe that we have something to say which will interest others. I want to make beauitful things and to please people. I see no contridiction, however, between courting an audience and believing that a work of art must stand alone on its own merits. Being an economic success is not the same as suceeding in your art.
Do You Work Best Alone or In Collaboration?
Alone! Usually at a rate and in a mess. I turn on some music, at the moment it seems to be Arthur Bliss’s Adam Zero, walk around the room several times. I will have an idea of the sort of thing I want but no idea how to achieve it.
Next I’ll get one of my several boxes of cuttings and throw them in a heap to see if anything catches my eye or perhaps two seemingly unrelated images will fall on top of each other and I will suddenly see they belong together. Woe betide anyone who ventures into my room during these periods! I chase them out, and that includes the cat.
Some people have told me that my work reminds them of stage designs and to design for the stage would be wonderful, yet I am so jealous and protective of my ideas that I cannot see how a collaboration could ever happen.
What Advice Would You Give To An Artist Starting Out in Your Field?
Work, work,work, even if your head is empty of ideas sit down and work. It is only by working that inspiration comes. Everything we make, even what we later hate and destroy, teaches us something.
What Are You Working on at the Moment?
I have been producing a series of London themed collages, with the imagery predominately Georgian. They seem to have culminated in a Crucifixion scene before Temple Bar, which is giving me no end of trouble. Though the images are all of a past London the collages are actually reactions to the present day city. Just a few days ago I found an image of Moira Shearer from Powell and Pressburger’s, ‘Tales of Hoffmann,’ which so took my fancy that it has become the centre of a Sleeping Beauty ballet collage.
Who or What is Your Greatest Influence and Why?
Two English painters whoses figures appear repeatedly in my collages are William Hogarth and William Blake, two Londoners. The individual figures, the compositions , poses and patterns are an inspiriation.Blake in particular has that special mixture or muck and spirit that is London.No one in British art can do a crowd scene quiet like Hogarth full of anger satire and aggresive energy.
Diagalev’s Ballet Russes is also an influence. What a great boiling pot of the arts! Picassio, Polenc, Matisse, Stravinsky, Bakst,Chanel, Cocteau to mention a few of those artists who contributed. Over 70 years later we are all still working through its influence. You will find elements from Ballet Russes designs throughout my work.
You can see more of Nicholas Bradshaw’s work on his tumblr account Handmadecollage, and on Instegram @necbradshaw