Young Masters: Focus on Photography|Nick Simpson

Dr Crighton's apparatus for the exploration of other worlds being without the benefit of a breathable atmosphere.

Nick Simpson presents photographs as though they had been recently discovered in the attic of a long deceased relative; charged with romantic mystery within the context of historical photography they often draw influence from art’s great masters and movements, in particular the Italian Renaissance, Dada and early Surrealism. There is evidence planted within each image that invites further enquiry and the viewer is encouraged to examine this carefully selected moment. In direct contradiction of the demands placed on photography today to be easily accessible and to provide instant gratification, Simpson uses equipment and techniques that date back to its earliest days. The pictures are constructed from scratch and everything is real. The original photograph is made in a single sitting on one photographic plate, and after processing Simpson then scratches, distresses and paints the negative to build a patina that helps to convey a false sense of historical provenance, contrasting with the often incongruous subject matter.

Simpson’s recent exhibitions include the Bristol Photo Festival, Blaze, Bristol and a solo show at 164 Westbourne Grove, London, both 2014. He has also exhibited at the Bristol Photo Festival in 2012, Medici Gallery, London, 2013 and at Affordable Art Fair Battersea, 2014.


What is it about Young Masters that you are most interested in?

An artist cannot help being aware of those great artists that went before, and whether consciously or sub-consciously, that must have an effect upon their working practice. Young Masters gives contemporary artists a golden opportunity to acknowledge this and bring their own work to a wider audience.

My practice relies heavily upon on embracing the past and either directly or indirectly contains reference to the Grand Masters, twisting this from a contemporary viewpoint is what truly interests me.

Can you explain to us what your work is about?

In this series I am making pictures under the guise of a completely invented character – my fictitious Great Grandfather Samuel Heracles Gascoigne-Simpson. By playing with our accepted knowledge of visual historical accuracy, it is my intention to suggest that all was not as it seems in austere Victorian England…

Which artist/s are you most inspired by?

Max Ernst, Agnolo Bronzino, Jan van Eyck, Hugo Ball, Sandro Botticelli and Roger Fenton to name just a few.

Can you tell us something about your background?

Prior to entering the art world I was a pig farmer, shop assistant, commercial/advertising photographer, creative director and film maker.

What inspired you to become an artist?

Nothing in particular inspired me to become an artist, I’ve always had a need to create – it was more a case of finally being able to throw off the yoke of commercial art and get on with what I really should be doing – making art for me.

If you weren’t an artist what would you be?

A pig farmer.

What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

Not being a pig farmer.

What are your plans for the future?

I intend to continue with this body of work for the foreseeable future. I’m very much enjoying making the images and am greatly enjoying people’s reaction to them. As the ‘collection’ expands I will continue to exhibit and would like to publish a book combining both the images and the stories that have grown along side of them.

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