Nick Hersey, artist

IMG_4549An irreverent maverick is how artist Nick Hersey likes to see himself.

It cannot be denied that he has built a reputation as someone who is not afraid to poke fun at the art world’s London establishment and question the complicated intellectualism of contemporary art.

He doesn’t have the fine art academic pedigree of many of his peers as he started out by studying illustration and working as a graphic designer – but he is happy with that.

“It means I am not weighed down by all that intellectual baggage. I enjoy rubbing the establishment up the wrong way and being a little cheeky with what I do,” he said with a wry grin.

“There is always a hint of dry humour in my subject matter and my work has personal characteristics which people can recognise.

“I feel I am surviving as an artist despite the fact I have always been swimming upstream.”

Nick’s work, which has grown from an illustrative graffiti style, is, he says, not so much political as observational. He reckons it’s not the role of the artist to protest but instead to provoke discussion and a response from those who see it.

“As an artist, I am interested in the role of the individual within society – the way in which tribes or community relate to the wider society as a whole.

“I look at the struggle of the individual to find a voice, an identity, a sense of self in our consumerist world.

“With every consumable peddled with the promise of empowering us, our sense of futility or insignificance seems to become more entrenched and I am intrigued by the effects of this consumer culture on society.”

Nick lives with his wife and their three children, the youngest just a few weeks old, in Matlock.

They are originally from the south of England and arrived in Derbyshire after several years living in Brazil, Thailand and China where Nick was at first looking after their other two children now aged 14 and ten.

“My wife was offered a job in São Paulo so we left England and I dropped out of work to look after my daughter.

“It was a big shock as it was a complete role reversal but it allowed me to get back to painting and art and the experience of living abroad has greatly influenced what I do now.”

It was while living and working in these countries that Nick’s passion for improving the lives of the less privileged was ignited, and in addition to painting he began to work with young people to develop their self esteem through art.

He believes that if you have the capacity to be inspired you have the capacity to be creative and he says he gained a great deal working with young people in Thailand and China.

So much so that he has continued with similar work back here in England and is a creative mentor for Derbyshire County Council, working one-to-one with troubled youngsters.

The family returned five years ago and settled in the Dales because of the relaxed rural nature.

Since landing back Nick has managed to establish himself on the cutting edge of the county’s art scene and has staged thought-provoking exhibitions at The Level Centre in Rowsley and The Chocolate Factory in Derby and has been an artist in residence at QUAD and for Bank Street Arts in Sheffield. He has also maintained links in Asia and has been selling work through the Island 6 art collective in Shanghai for ten years.

His pop-up studio has taken over empty shops for his ‘The fact is…..’ project which collated information in the form of short postings from the general public.

The aim was to gauge current public opinion and interpret the date through my paintings, drawings and writing,” explained Nick.

Currently in his studio there are some intriguing unfinished paintings – rutting stags to depict the aggressive primeval instincts of City bankers; an overweight woman struggling with exercise and scrapping youngsters.

He has called the body of work Specialists In Failure and linked it to his views on the consumerist society.

“In pretty much every way people are being convinced of their failings by ideals being marketed by mass culture. I hope this work with provoke debate about our lives,” he said.

Specialists In Failure is being exhibited at the Tarpey Gallery, Castle Donington, until April 4.

To read more about Nick and his work go to http://www.nickhersey.com.

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