Publication: The Times
Born in Switzerland, in 1980, resident in Brussels and trained in Glasgow, Nicolas Party is one of the new breed of younger artists completely at home in the internationalised world of contemporary art.
In his earlier years Party was active as a graffiti artist but now specialises in creating art environments that use entire rooms and galleries. In the past he has transformed venues such as Glasgow’s Modern Institute, and Inverleith House in Edinburgh, into colourful painted installations. He has worked in a similar way in venues from Stavanger to New York.
Here, the artist has opted for a monochrome palette, using dense blacks, stark whites and nuanced greys to transform the large gallery space of the this former industrial workshop into a typical Party gesamkunstwerk.
The imagery is a constructed, abstracted mindscape, which recalls elements of Surrealism in its dreamlike symbolism. Large sausage-shaped motifs float amongst black and white ribbons, and their shadows. Grey trees with withered limbs cast their twisted, dense black shadows, while bird-like motifs soar amidst these tangled imaginings. In some areas, Party has used charcoal to create grey textured half-tones on walls and partitions. The cast-iron Edwardian pillars that support the floors and ceilings have been transformed using a dense matt black paint that seems to suck all light from the surrounding space.
Buried amongst this large-scale imagery is a series of pencil drawings depicting elements associated with traditional still-life, such as fruit and kitchenware. The imagery is not straightforward: a pear-like fruit is propped with a stick while another is twisted and distorted. A coffee pot is shown with an inverted spout. Perhaps it is not surprising that the legacy of Surrealism persists in Party’s work, given that his domicile was also that of René Magritte, one of the most prominent members of the Surrealist movement.
Party’s technique of juxtaposing smaller, discrete imagery amongst large, all encompassing works is now well established. There is a relationship and what might be called a ‘dialogue’ between these elements. The monotones of the smaller works are reflected in the larger scheme, as are aspects of the imagery.
In a new departure for Party, he has made a series of mezzotint prints, which he has developed with the printmakers at the Glasgow Print Studio. The technique of mezzotint was first developed in the mid-17th Century and allowed for the creation of a greater variety of tone, which, in turn, made it possible to depict shade and shadows with more subtlety and realism.
Party’s mezzotints, derived primarily from his drawings, again reflect his investigation of the borderland between the real and the imagined. They are in a sense self-reflexive in that they draw attention to their own artifice.
All of this is the product of a fecund imagination and shows a gifted artist working at the height of his powers.
* The exhibition is part of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art 2016, which runs throughout the city until 25 April: glasgowinternational.org