Artist Interview

Chichester Art Trail Artists

A studio interview with Nicola Hancock

About a year ago now, my daughter Ellen had a brainwave…and so began our Artist Interview feature on the website.

I have since challenged several fellow Trail artists to this question and answer format; it doesn’t seem too onerous and it makes for interesting reading. You can see the other interviews under Resources, in the website menu. I now feel it only fair to subject myself to the same interrogation! I hope this post helps to introduce me to new Trail artists, or to those thinking about joining us. It also serves to give a bit of my background and how that fits with organising Chichester Open Studios Art Trail.

First of all, my husband wrote about me, and my work, for an exhibition he was organising. I couldn’t have said better myself – so here are his words.

Trained as a scientist Nicola turned initially to photography then over three decades to painting, sculpture, installations, textile work and in some cases combinations of all of these elements! Her work examines the structures of life and feeling; physical, emotional and psychological. Her science taught her to look beyond the immediate reality of things to understand the deeper connections and organisations of our world. Her art practice gave feeling and shape to her life experiences, including the joys and traumas of childhood, and more recently the impact of cancer. These combine in her eclectic and startling art work, hard to define but genre defying and remarkable in all respects.
Her work has been exhibited at numerous galleries and exhibitions; she has an extensive following of collectors, buyers and enthusiasts.

studio out1
Chichester Art Trail

You established Courtyard Studios, offering studio space for artists, what sort of environment did you aim to create?

Nicola Hancock

As is the usual way with creative adventures, the whole thing took on a life of its own really; I just kept turning up from day-to-day! I moved to the studio over eight years ago now, renting enough space for myself and one other artist. Regular open studio days, and other events, put The Courtyard on the map and it became an active little hub of creativity. Gradually I rented the other buildings around the central courtyard space and more artists began to join me. Amongst others, The Courtyard has been creative home to painters, sculptors, printmakers, textile, glass and installation artists, and a blacksmith is soon to join us. It has also come to pass that we have my husband Terry as our resident ’Framer Guy’; obviously a great asset to us all! The artists at Courtyard Studios have always taken part in the Art Trail, and I have to say that it is one of the highlights of studio year; the atmosphere is a wonderful!

All in all, we now have a lively environment for artists who cherish their everyday practice, the importance of creativity, and the support and exchange that arises from working alongside others.

Chichester Art Trail

What is your normal day at Courtyard Studios like?

Nicola Hancock

As Terry and I have a young Golden Retriever, Treacle, we often break our journey to the studio with a walk over the Downs; an exhilarating way to start our day. On arrival at The Courtyard, we duly take up residence in our own studio spaces (Treacle comes in with me and enjoys listening to podcasts about sewing or painting). Then we both get lost in our own tasks until calling a, probably rather late, lunch break. Sometimes, if we’re feeling pleased with the work achieved, we drive down the road to The Barn, where we and Treacle are always welcome for lunch! Then back for more work and maybe some chats with other artists, before going home at a reasonable time via another Downs walk. Lovely days in fact!

Chichester Art Trail

You work with many media. Why! And do you have a favourite?

Nicola Hancock

My favourite medium is always changing, but I love them all! I think it depends what I am exploring, or feel the wish to express. Painting is now a process that has ease and flow, manifesting feelings of the moment. Working with textiles however, is much slower, both in the making, the undoing and redoing, so is more fitting for deeper investigations. I make textile pieces that need to work in the physical reality of this world; they must fit a body. So the process is very exacting, with stringent parameters governing a creative design. Whereas painting reveals and conveys its own evolving reality and, as long as the image is working, anything goes.

Chichester Art Trail

What is your most loved creative tool, or piece of machinery, and why?

Nicola Hancock

On thinking about this, my knitting machine came to mind. I have two, but my favourite is a Japanese made one that Terry bought me. It is old and secondhand and was sold to him by a husband who had lost his wife, Marion, and he was very keen for it to go to a good home. It certainly has done; I love it!

Also though, I love my paints and palettes, oil and watercolour, that have been bequeathed to me by a dear friend, Anne, who first started me on my painting journey.

Most of all though, the tools I am most grateful for, are my hands, and as I have just broken my arm, I am now even more aware of how precious and life affirming they are!

Chichester Art Trail

What projects are you working on at the moment?

Nicola Hancock

Since I had a mastectomy three years ago, a lot of my creative energy has been devoted to designing beautiful clothing to fit my now asymmetric form. I love the challenge of engineering a 2-D pattern to fit a 3-D form. Making something beautiful to accommodate a human body, affording it comfort, cosiness and ease, is also very satisfying! Having said that, now I have broken my right arm, sewing and knitting will be on hold for a while and I will have a painting phase; I use my left hand to draw and paint.

Chichester Art Trail

When you are creatively lost or frustrated, does your space inspire you?

Nicola Hancock

Being lucky enough to have all my creativity around me, just at hand and set out in various stations according to the medium being used, I can always find inspiration somewhere in my studio. Having a large and organised space really is a big gift to me in my working practice.

Chichester Art Trail

What time of year, or day, do you most enjoy at Courtyard Studios?

Nicola Hancock

The most beautiful time must be the spring; the fresh lime green and purple of The Courtyard’s trees in the shining spring light, with the burgeoning crops, or animals, in the field behind. The swallows arrive to celebrate with us and it just so happens to be the time of the Art Trail too!

But the studios are always beautiful; we have had the boiling sunshine, snow, and floods enough to make a lake, and I always feel welcomed and at home.

Chichester Art Trail

Has Courtyard Studios fulfilled your dreams, and what ambitions do you have now?

Nicola Hancock

Being entrusted with The Courtyard, a chunk of a Downland farm, to manage, invest in and create with, has been somewhat miraculous! My ambition is to nurture it as a hub of potential to support artists who choose to make it their creative home. It is such a thrill when I am working there, with the energy of other artists beavering away, each of us bringing unique and inspiring things into the world. It is a very still place, so when I’m there alone, it is also a productive place to be.

I am alert to ways of growing this venture in the most fitting way, both for myself, the space, and the combination of myself in that particular space. We have recently converted three cattle stalls and a bullpen into four more individual artist’s studios. As this meant access was denied to our swallow friends, after their long flight back for the summer, we had to redress the balance. So we have constructed a swallow shelter, complete with ceramic nests, in the hope that they will forgive us and adopt it as their new home. It feels our best offering, and its position adds to the fourth side of The Courtyard, bringing a satisfying sense of completeness to the physical space.

Chichester Art Trail

How does organising the Art Trail fit into your creative life?

Nicola Hancock

Strangely, the Art Trail feels like a very big and virtual extension to the studio! The thing I love about The Courtyard, is its ability to support the individual creative endeavours of all its artists; the Trail does that too.

Last year there were over 170 artists, year long brewing away in their creative nests. Then in May, we all burst onto the scene as a radiant explosion of Art Trail Green. And we were noticed, and attracted thousands of visitors to our Studios! Chichester Open Studios Art Trail is a very effective vehicle for the promotion and support of local artists, their practice and their artwork. I believe in that, and I’m very chuffed to have guardianship of the Trail for the moment.

And with that Art Trail hat on, I can’t help but add that you will be able to register for the 2019 Trail very soon now – during the month of November. Have a look for Join us in the menu on the homepage, and you will find all the information you need. Or do email if you have any queries that I may be able to help with.

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