Nick McPhail Interview - The Hopper Prize

Nick McPhail

Nick McPhail on moving from music to art, multiple upcoming solo exhibitions, and beginning to incorporate the figure into new works.

How did you get into making art?

I was very artistic as a kid but I ended up focusing that energy on music, as being an artist wasn’t supported in my hometown. I was always in garage bands and decided to go to college to study audio production. I absolutely hated the audio program and was thinking about dropping out of college, but I decided to try out a couple of studio art classes. It ended up being amazing for me. It all came very naturally, and I became obsessed. I immediately felt like I found my place, and dedicated myself to making art.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve got a few solo exhibitions coming up, so I’m making a lot of work – paintings, ceramics and drawings. I’ve been making ceramics for as long as I’ve been painting, but this is my first time including them in an exhibition. I’ve always thought of my exhibitions as installations where all the pieces together can create a larger meaning based on the relationships among the works, the architecture of the gallery, and the viewer – not just as single works hung on the wall. Bringing in the ceramic sculptures is an exciting opportunity to change the way people move through the gallery space, and to think about how the work is perceived in relation to a specific spatial experience.

I’ve also started bringing the figure into my work within the last year. Concepts such as perception, memory, voyeurism and multilocation are similar to those in my previous work, but the subject matter has broadened. I’m excited to see how this affects the conversation around the work as I start showing it.

I’ve always thought of my exhibitions as installations where all the pieces together can create a larger meaning.

Nick McPhail

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

Getting a chance to spend a lot of time in Europe last year really inspired me. I was able to see so much great art. At the time, I was feeling a bit stuck with my subject matter… I was staying in my comfort zone and not allowing space to freely expand myself and my practice. Having a chance to spend time with and study so much masterful artwork in person reminded me to keep exploring new things and to stop limiting myself.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

Overall, I take a broader approach. I usually fit what I am already exploring in the studio to the current project at hand.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

I try to get into the studio in the early morning and work until the early afternoon. If I’m feeling inspired I can work all day and late into the night. But on a typical day I bounce around and work on different projects – I might paint for a couple hours then work on ceramics, take a walk, write, edit photographs, draw – they all feed into each other, and it feels cyclical.

Who are your favorite artists?

I don’t think about artists in terms of favorites, but here are a few that I’ve been looking at lately – Mama Anderson, Nicole Eisenman, Andrew Cranston, Diego Rivera, Claire Taboret, Chagall and late Monet.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

I get inspired by checking out artist-run spaces here in Los Angeles. And of course, contemporary museums and social media.

I also get a lot of inspiration from chefs on cooking tv shows, and poets.

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