In the second installment of our artist studio visit Q&A, Olsen Irwin Works on Paper, Small Paintings and Sculpture manager, Madeleine Brady, talks with Nicholas Harding.
MB: In search of Nicholas Harding’s studio I hurry along a Camperdown street of identical terrace houses. I spot a paint splattered curtain peeking through a door, the familiar smell of oil paint fills the air and I know I’ve arrived. Like the curtain, the clear plastic lining the studio walls is covered in brush marks and the colours of previous works, protecting the bright white walls beyond. I am greeted by Harding’s wife Lynne and given a quick tour of the modern loft terrace as Harding works vigorously on a large canvas. Although most recognised for his textural layers of oil paint, I am here to view the artist’s etchings and works on paper, hoping to fill the Olsen Irwin drawers with some new finds and familiar favourites.
Harding flips through large gouache works on paper. We come across portraits of friends and family, including Australian actor Hugo Weaving, Olsen Irwin artist Paul Davies and Harding’s wife Lynne. In the upstairs loft space we find small sketches from his 2013 residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris and peruse the carefully organised drawers of etchings. I take with me some gouache studies of Parisian dogs and a bunch of etchings, including the 2001 etching of Harding’s Archibald Prize winning work ‘John Bell as King Lear‘.
Harding then riffles through the mountains of sketch books littering the studio floor – notebooks of exquisite handmade paper filled entirely with studies drawn of the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of the famed Samuel Beckett play ‘Waiting for Godot’. Harding will exhibit works from the ‘Waiting for Godot’ series at Olsen Irwin in May 2014.
MB: Do you view your sketches and drawings as a part of your overall process or as works in themselves?
NH: They’re largely part of the overall process, of working things out but the ones that really hit the mark can exist as independent works.
MB: You are currently making a series of etchings from the ‘Waiting for Godot’ sketchbooks – how relevant are etchings to your artistic practice?
NH: These are my first since I did some etchings back in 2001-05 with Duckprint and Cicada Press. Working this time with Laura Jones at Legs Press. Etching is another way of drawing and with the Godot etchings it’s a way of developing some of the images from the sketchbooks. The first ones are faithful to the initial sketches but others were developed further. It’s exciting to see how the drawn mark in the soft ground will bite. Most of the plates had a few states of development but one plate came out of the first bite and was done.
MB: How did you get involved in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of ‘Waiting for Godot’?
NH: While I was artist-in-residence at the Cité des Internationales in Paris last year there was a ‘pop-up’ Globe theatre outside my studio window and I drew the actors while they waited for their cues and paced around outside. Hugo Weaving saw some of these drawings on Instagram and invited me to draw during STC’s rehearsals for ‘Waiting for Godot’ later in the year.
MB: What do you hope to achieve from your exhibition of works from the ‘Waiting for Godot’ series?
NH: With any series the hope is to create some exciting and engaging work, to communicate my response to something which excites me. I just feel compelled to draw with something, with ink, paint, on an etching plate. It’s how I attempt to make sense of things. The arts are a way of entering into life and to collaborate with another art form, another means of expression, gets me out of my comfort zone and opens up other possibilities for my work.
MB: The theatre has been a reoccurring theme in your work, will we see more joint ventures with the Sydney Theatre Company in the future?
NH: There are a couple of productions later on this year I’d love to be able to attend and draw but it does depend very much upon our mutual schedules.
7 – 25 May 2014
63 Jersey Road
Woollahra NSW 2025