Following the success of Nicholas Romeril’s solo exhibition Free to Jump at the CCA Galleries, we take a closer look at the work of this Jersey artist.
I am drawn to blue, I am draw to the sea, the rhythm of light, texture and use of colour feeds my soul. So I stood mesmerised, looking at views, captured onto a canvas, that I know so well. The play of light, breathtaking, on sea and water, rocks, sand or snow, changing during the various times of the day that each painting represented. I wanted to meet the creative spirit that had captured so well, the intensity of feeling that the pictures evoked.
Impressionists artists over the years have been inspired by the light in Jersey just as in the south of France, the brightness and contrasts have drawn the desires to capture scenes onto canvas. My own grandfather spent many hours painting St Aubin’s bay from his garden on Mont Cochon, through his paintings I see the bay in it’s full glory at dawn and at sunset.
Nicholas Romeril captures the essence of light with abundance, the raw force of the waves, rocks hidden from view, seas of sands and still fields of snow. His two and three dimensional works on canvas, linen, slate, his aluminium sculptures and stainless steel panels show the diversity of works from this artist. From his early commissions of Verre Eglomise and drypoint etchings of Jersey cows, their personalities honed from studying their characteristics on his family farm as a child, to his recent plays of light shining into the depths of the oceans. I love them all.
I started by asking Nick to tell us a little about his beginnings.
“I’m Jersey born and bred, both my parents were farmers and I had a fairly idyllic upbringing on a cattle farm. My parents were creative people, my father, an amateur painter, filled the winter months painting at the kitchen table while my mother was a handicrafts person.
“My father held evening classes and courses and as a result there was a large artist community that visited the farm. Paul Kilshaw, when he first came to the island, had a studio in one of the barns and I remember Paul and his friends holding a pop up exhibition in the field. At the age of thirteen I used my Dad’s oil paints and spent all my time learning to paint, there were no other distractions then.
“My education was good, I started at De La Salle just before Fred Sands retired, so I studied with him for a few years then Mark Blanchard for the rest. He was a very good teacher and very supportive, allowing me an easy, relaxed way of learning. My father unfortunately died whilst I was at University, but I had already made the decision to study Art and as he had predicted that the farming industry would suffer tough times and had encouraged me to follow my dreams.”
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
“My first was of a Jazz, saxophonist, I took it to school and my French teacher saw it, liked it and asked if he could buy it and paid £35 which wasn’t bad.
To be honest I’ve always sold well, when my Father was dying he asked how I was going to make a living, naively I hadn’t given it much thought before, so I started doing portraits. Then when my Father died I went on to do the small cow etchings, carrying on the connection with his cattle. These sold well and earned me enough to get by, Jersey cows are very beautiful and one is just on it’s way to Australia.”
What opportunities helped you along the way?
“Support from my family was one. I started exhibiting fairly early on, my first one man show was when I was still at school. Mark Blanchard arranged for me to have a show in the bar at the Berni Gallery. I became used to showing what I’d done, quite a scary thing for all artists to show what they’d been practicing. I’ve always exhibited and then straight out of college I had a gallery looking after me, that all helped.
“In London I had a studio in Brixton and every now and then I sold something, struggling, yes, but great fun living a bohemian existence. The studio was shared with lots of other people, some now famous artists. Damien Hirst had a studio next to mine, along with Cecily Brown and Tacita Dean, it was the beginning of the nineties and the ambience helped.”
What made you come back to Jersey?
“I wanted to get married and have children. Also I was in London and wanted to start painting landscapes and needed to go somewhere to connect to the land. After a year spent travelling I came back to London and set up a studio and I was practising the art of Verre Eglomise, working on commissions in Mayfair, but although a lovely job it was distracting me from my art.”
How do you approach a new piece of work?
“Usually I have between twenty to thirty pieces on the go at once. For my recent exhibition, ‘Free to Jump’ at the CCA Galleries there were a lot. So that there was a cohesion between the pieces I worked on them all at the same time. At one stage there were loads of half finished paintings and sculptures but eventually what happens is they start to finish themselves. When I get to the moment when I find myself fiddling then I know I’ve reached the point where I can’t do anymore.”
We chatted about techniques and I asked what is the most indispensable item in the studio?
“Having been brought up with the impressionists, the big hitters of the 1980’s, light and shadow are the key things and colour is really important. All my paintings have to have that ‘sparkle’, my favourite part is at the end when I use a tiny little paint brush just to flick a bit of life into everything.
“The paint is the thing, as I work on different surfaces, when I squeeze out the paint that’s where the potential is.”
Many of your paintings feature hair, how did this come about?
“This started with the Sand dune paintings, I was getting frustrated with the grass and I wanted to add a three dimensional element to the paintings. I had tried various things like sand and grass, then as I was having my hair cut one day I looked down and thought I’d give it a try. Artists always give a little bit of their souls to each piece and this carries my DNA and that also means it can be authenticated.”
Who or what influences you and which work of art do you wish you owned?
“That is one of the hardest questions to answer, there are so many. Georgio Morandi, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas and more contemporary, Gillian Carnegie. The last exhibition I saw was at the Tate Modern, Marlene Dumas.
Having just recently finished an installation at Mark Jordan at the Beach, how did the idea evolve?
“During the refurbishment of the Atlantic Hotel they commissioned a large sand dune painting for the entrance, the preparatory drawings of which Mark then had for the new restaurant. Having seen the ‘shoal of fish’ above, Mark thought of an empty wall there that was the ideal place for the fish sculpture. Mark is a great supporter of my work and I of his! This is the first time that the fish will be in a public domain and so we’re looking forward to seeing the reaction they get.”
What project are you currently working on?
“I’ve got a very big seascape that I’m doing for a client in London as well as preparing for a solo show to be held in London in July. My new website has also just launched with an online shop.”
For more information or to purchase some of the artist’s work
visit his website: www.nicholasromeril.com