Nicholas Nyland

Tacoma, WA | by September 14, 2012

The rain had abated on the late morn­ing in early June when I vis­ited Nicholas Nyland’s stu­dio. I entered the lobby of the styl­ish 1920’s office build­ing in down­town Tacoma and rose six flights on an esca­la­tor to his airy light filled space.  The door was open and Nicholas greeted me warmly.

Out­side the win­dows on the right hand side of his stu­dio the hilly city opened into a stag­gered series of blocky build­ings and soft vibrant green trees.  Across the room, space seem­ingly flat­tened as tall build­ings loomed directly out­side.  The grid­ded geom­e­try and prospect of the slop­ing city make the space feel urban and open.

I felt like I was look­ing at a series of cheer­ful instal­la­tions as I panned Nicholas’ stu­dio; shelves host bright knick-​​knacks, pho­tos, hefty art books, and plants.  Thrift store finds min­gle with Nicholas’ ceramic sculp­tures as well as sev­eral local artists’ works.

There is an ordered anar­chy in the room.  Dozens of care­fully labeled clear plas­tic draw­ers and tubs hold a mes­mer­iz­ing array of mate­ri­als such as shiny strands of beads and reams of rib­bon.  White plas­tic shelves burst with the stuff of future visions–batting, can­vas, clay and more.  Nicholas embraces crafty as well as more tra­di­tional art sup­plies with an open spirit that is vital and generous.

Nicholas Nyland’s col­or­ful, play­ful work com­bines humor and dis­cern­ment.  His soft paint­ings hang on the wall, con­jur­ing Old­en­burg while deflat­ing the weight of painting’s con­tested and lengthy his­tory.  Ceramic forms sit on tables and shelves evok­ing the sheer tac­til­ity and vibrant color of the most painterly of paint­ings.  While Nicholas embraces multi-​​media, his direct manip­u­la­tion of all mate­ri­als is a con­stant that is cen­tral to his process and sensibility.

Nicholas know­ingly tra­verses mul­ti­ple lan­guages and lega­cies but with lev­ity.  This is part of what makes his work so appeal­ing.  It’s smart and funny.  Humor is impor­tant in Nicholas’ work.  Not only does humor ward against tak­ing one­self too seri­ously, it also allows one to say things that couldn’t be said with a straight face.  Humor affords hon­esty from a slightly askance per­spec­tive.  It can be pow­er­ful and lib­er­at­ing.  Humor also defies assump­tions and cat­e­go­riza­tion; such ques­tion­ing is inte­gral to Nicholas’ work.

Nicholas stud­ied paint­ing as an under­grad­u­ate at the Uni­ver­sity of Wash­ing­ton and then received his MFA in paint­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia.  After a few years on the east coast he returned to his home state, Wash­ing­ton.  In addi­tion to his stu­dio prac­tice, Nicholas is an active mem­ber of the local art com­mu­nity.  He is a mem­ber of SOIL, an influ­en­tial and long-​​standing artist run space in Seat­tle and exhibits widely in the North­west.  Recently he curated an exhibit at Pul­liam Def­fen­baugh Gallery in Port­land that explores Modernism’s legacy and had a sum­mer solo exhi­bi­tion at Prole Drift in Seat­tle, Phys­i­cal Spec­u­la­tions on a Future State.  Nicholas has an upcom­ing solo show at Vox Pop­uli in Philadel­phia this November.

To learn more about SOIL and his work see the links below.







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