When I begin to draw, I have no idea what's going to
appear. I work swiftly, to stay just ahead of the cage
of language, the linear mind and rational decision-making.
I just let the forms grow themselves—self-organize...
Nicola Tyson's paintings and drawings for which she is internationally known, involving figures, animals, and plants, often share an uncanny precision of line or detail that seem to anchor what would otherwise seem like a momentarily described, freely associative, expression of a person or form. A fine, wayward tension in her work is held in balance, through observation, emotion and subjectivity, compressed into deceptively simple lines and flat, rich, bright colors.
Text by Sascha Behrendt
Nicola Tyson is a British-born artist based in the United States. She is represented by Petzel gallery in New York and Sadie Coles HQ in London. Her work is held in the collections of major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and the Tate Modern, London, amongst others.
Elephant: You have previously said that your works explore “psycho-figuration”. Do you express your own psychology in these pieces, or are you tapping into a more universal feeling?
Tyson: It’s not a direct expression of my own psychology. When I stopped working so much with theory, I wanted to tap into something beyond language. Rather than being directly expressive, I use it as a source to make interesting forms. I’m too British, or skeptical, to be completely expressive! Humour is very important and I always try to use it temper any pretension that might come up. Humour delivers unfamiliar stuff in a friendly way, and it also goes past language, past that part of your brain to somewhere deeper. I don’t want to put that deep psychological stuff into words; I want to just drag it up, straight out, and make an image that creates some cognitive dissonance.
Elephant: Is your process quite instinctive then?
Tyson: My drawing is totally intuitive. When I start, I really don’t know what’s going to come up. It’s like putting a pencil on one part of your insides, and then just drawing it out, like a map, and not knowing what is going to unfurl in front of you. That is the excitement for me: not knowing where it is going. My painting is much more deliberate, because of the nature of it; it’s much slower.