My first encounter with Nick Goss’s work was when someone showed me a photo on an i-Phone in a pub. I was instantly captivated by his elusive, yet enigmatic, style of painting. Not much art can really grab your attention from a phone screen but there was something about these works that left me wanting more. The ghostly textures pulled me in and the more I heard about Nick, the more I wanted to know.
Nick Goss, Dockery Plantation, 2009. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.
Over the last year I’ve seen a range of his pieces at the Josh Lilley Gallery and he has also produced a response to be included in In Conversation with Stuart Sutcliffe which opens in April – how did that come around so quickly?! It was because of this exhibition that I ended up trying to find my way to his studio today. Getting out at Elephant & Castle I was instantly disorientated. It’s another one of those stations where I never use the right exit and never end up in the right place. After several failed attempts, and having crossed the roundabout three times, I set off in the wrong direction. Finally I managed to get it right but half way down the New Kent Road, a taxi came to my rescue (again). And, thank heavens it did, as the studio was much further away than I had anticipated. When will I learn?
Nick Goss, Casbah, 2011. Image courtesy of the artist and via www.stuartsutcliffe.org.uk.
I arrived quite late and frazzled but walking into Nick’s studio had an instantly calming effect as the smell of oil paint wafted over to meet me. Everything seemed right and I was greeted by Casbah – the work that will be included in the Sutcliffe show. For this, Nick went up to Liverpool on a Stuart Sutcliffe research trip to get fully in the mood. As well as being an artist, the multi-talented Nick plays in the band, My Sad Captains, so the combination of art and music in ICWSS particularly appealed to him. His band has been described as lonesome and groovy with a warm dynamic range; his music elicits very similar emotional responses to those of his artwork. Over the last year, Nick has been using board more than canvas, experimenting with block shapes as seen here. His work has developed a long way, without losing any of its potency.
Nick Goss’s studio. Own photograph.
Casbah looks at how the reality of being a musician is often so different to the imagined ideal. Nick wanted to investigate the associated detritus of playing in a band and the sort of rehearsal spaces and small venues that the Beatles would have confronted on arriving in Hamburg. When devoid of players and instruments, these spaces have a peculiar, melancholic atmosphere. Cheap, simple and limited, these rooms allowed creativity to flourish and promulgated the development of musical ideas.
At the studio. Own photograph.
Nick has also painted a companion piece to Casbah, a bigger composition with a different colour scheme and tonality. It’s different but the same, emanating from the same point it is a mirror image of the first composition.
Looking back, Josh Lilley first saw Nick’s work in late 2008 at his studio at the RA. He then included him in his gallery’s inaugural show. Nick graduated in summer 2008 at which time Saatchi began buying his works. Josh had spotted something special and offered him a solo show for April of last year. The rest, as they say, is history.
Nick Goss, Everyday, 2009. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.
Nick’s works play closely on the paradox of observation and memory, purposefully seeking out locations and subjects that co-exist between the landscape and the industrial, the recognisable and the ambiguous. The works include many historical allusions which demonstrate the ability of painting to accommodate the historic alongside the contemporary, and to integrate the conceptual within the visual. Many of his images focus on the remains of a built environment that is abandoned, overgrown or decayed. Nick removes any sense of specificity from these spaces, embodying the works with beautiful timelessness and romanticism in his parallel world. Yet, they are real places with a haunting presence and fading memories. The scenes appear almost overlaid at times as dense textures and thickly-rendered surfaces are covered with delicate washes in dream-like scenarios.
Nick Goss, Ringling Brothers, 2009-10. Image via www.joshlilleygallery.com.
Across the studio, and indeed across his whole oeuvre, Nick’s works range dramatically in size. Whether you’re looking at his intimate watercolours or huge canvases (exceeding three metres), the texture and feel remains the same whatever the scale. We are not meant to look at these works and identify figures, objects or landscapes. Instead, their elusive presence is intended to fade in and out of our viewpoint. The works are bold yet fragile in their portrayals.
At the studio. Own photograph.
Nick’s work fringes on the cusp of memory and imagination, denying space and time. His desolate landscapes are incredibly moving; the geography of the images is both relative and abstract importance especially when viewed alongside the emotional reality depicted in them.
The studio had a very conducive atmosphere and I could have happily whiled away the day sniffing oil paint fumes and getting lost in the paintings. Paint tubes jostled for space on a central table next to pots bursting with brushes, and sketches discarded in a corner caught my attention but the room wasn’t cluttered. It exactly what you’d expect of an artist’s studio but was personal to Nick in all aspects. One wall was filled with watercolours on pages torn from a sketchbook, developing the theme of the shabby rehearsal space by adding manufactured models in a study of fakery and idealisation. These drawings are filled with a romantic melancholy, a sense of nostalgia and an elusive sensibility. It was very special to get a feeling for how Nick works and to see his progression of ideas.
Watercolours on the wall. Own photograph.
Examining the paintings in progress was fascinating. I won’t give too much away – you’re meant to be left wanting more. Nick returns to Josh Lilley for a solo show this October and no doubt these great ideas will have developed and taken shape. This is an artist who is quietly making big waves!