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The Bradley Cooper in the sculptural world. Driven, successful, attractive, insightful and collected.

The TAlk

Nick Hornby

Artist, Sculpture

Shaun Lonergan
4.5 mins

Nick Hornby, could be considered the Bradley Cooper in the sculptural world. Driven, successful, attractive, insightful and collected. In the world of art and sculpture, he has earned his stripes with several successful selected solo exhibitions, selected group exhibitions, collaborations, and awards throughout his career.

Hornby hails from London where he spends most of his days in the studio working on future pieces. However, beneath his polish veneer, there is a humble and calm persona.

His work can be viewed as a reflection of the shifting world around us, or, simply a beautiful collection of form and space, assembled in a meaningful manner. It all depends on the perception of the viewer and how the piece exists through their eyes. Hornby's work creates this beautiful connection, a moment in time for the viewer to explore art, removed from his expectations of the original purpose the piece was created for.

He admits himself, he is quite suspicious of his own thoughts, and not sure if he owns them. Which is a powerful statement when it comes from the likes of a powerhouse artist like Hornby, and maybe a position on inner thoughts we all should explore.

From this idea, Nick works to exclude his own bias from his pieces, resulting is a collection of work that is vast and dynamic but pulled together by an explorative thread that is present in all his sculptures.

We interviewed this incredible artist that is re-imagining sculptor for the modern world to explore and enjoy. We learn about his connection to his work, how he is empowered by collaboration with fallow artist and what does a master sculpture wear on the daily.

The Horizon Comes in Chinese Blue by Nick Hornby and Sinta Tantra, image by Luca Piffaretti.

N: Can you talk us through your work process, from an idea for a collection through to the final exhibition?

NH: Sculpture can be slow, the commission I’ve just installed took 2 years. It started as a provocative pitch to a commission invitation which I luckily won, so I had to into realizable engineered plans. The result is a 5m tall steel piece that weighs 2.5 tonnes. I love that shift from fantasy to reality, that is why I’m a sculptor and not an Imagineer. I think the experience of the real object – being physically confronted is better than the description of the idea.

N: In the past, you have discussed the process of eradicating your self gesture from your work. Why do you feel a need to remove your identity with in the art you create?

NH: Part of my practice is pseudo-scientific, I want to exclude my bias and subjectivity to make my practice rigorous. The part is because I’m a gay white man, and I’m not sure my identity is of interest to anyone else. However, this is flawed logic as it’s impossible to escape your self, my work always ends up looking like a “Nick Hornby.” But I hope this contradiction is visible.

N: Your work represents a multidimensional existence, with the viewer creating different forms within the work depending on their perception. Is this outcome a product of an exploration of your multi-layered self or an examination of the modern world around you.

NH: The world around me. I’m quite suspicious of my own thoughts, I’m not sure I own them. I am interested in how things acquire meaning; language, a sign, and what is specifically local and what is more universal. I guess I am trying to find out what of myself is specific to me, and what is the same for everyone else. For example the division between me, ‘I was born in 1980, I live in London, I’m an artist,’ and shared experiences everyone has, ‘my heart breaks, I will die and so on’.

N: I'm intrigued by how you create your pieces, they are so perfectly chaotic. What mediums and processes do you use to create your sculptures to achieve this aesthetic?

NH: If you’re asking about tools, I use drawing, cad, programming, 3d printing, CNC cutting, Laser cutting, mould making, casting, traditional carving, traditional loss-wax casting, hand finishing, sanding, polishing, smoothing, patination, painting, waxing. But the aesthetic you talk of is as much to do with the ideas as any process.

Nick at work, image provided by artist.

N: Do you consider yourself a digital native in a craftsman world or a craftsman utilising digital power to create?

NH: I’m not a digital native. I was born in 1980, I grew up at the tail end of tapes, Walkmans, VHS. I love and feel very comfortable with both hi-tech and lo-fi tools and materials, part intrinsic curiosity and part necessity. I’ve self-taught some coding, CAD, HTML, etc, but also clay modeling, welding, mould making etc.

N: How do you select your subject? is it a fluid process or a methodical one. (I don’t start with technology).

NH: My references come from Art History, which I have an awkward love-hate relationship with (the reality is more complicated than the stories). It’s a fluid process, some artworks I regard as quasi-universal symbols and others have touched me more personally (this is perhaps that same question of subjectivity I mentioned earlier).

N: You recently showed a piece at MOSTYN, a collective work with NYC photographer Louie Banks, and won the MOSTYN Open 21 'Audience Award'. Can you talk us through the idea behind this piece?

NH: Louie is an incredible photographer, representing sex, grunge, vividness, beauty. This work is one of a series that engages with portraiture and identity. The result is surreal, abject, beautiful. This piece has been acquired by a foundation in Germany, and the series will be part of an exhibition that I can’t discuss yet.

Piece by Nick Hornby and Louie Banks, Winning MOSTYN Open 21 'Audience Award, image provided by artist.

N: Was Louie's work used as a muse for the piece or was the process a more collaborative approach?

NH: Collaboration. 100% two way. We worked together in my studio, I was fascinated by Louie’s view-point. As I said earlier – a lot of my work is slow and laborious, collaborating can bring about a vivid and faster approach, as you think on your feet discussing and bouncing ideas.

N: A collaborative body of work that I love, is your collaboration with Sinta Tantra. In particular, the piece 'The Horizon Comes in Chinese Blue' melts my mind. Collaborating with Sinta must be challenging considering you both play in different realms and practices. How did you and Tantra merge your processes without one taking dominance other the other?

NH: Thanks. Yes, it's great working with Sinta. The piece you mention was the first we ever did. We worked together in the studio, directly painting the sculpture. In our first act, we boldly “cut” the piece in two horizontally at a slight angle of about 6 degrees using a very dark blue (Hague Blue). It drastically changed the object. We then made another decision, and another, constantly considering how each affected the last and the overall object in the round. Incredibly labour intensive as you have to mask off the entire object to spray each colour, and then wait for 48hrs for each to dry. The result is a very compound object that constantly changes between paint-as-paint and pictorial illusion.

The Horizon Comes in Chinese Blue by Nick Hornby and Sinta Tantra, image provided by artist.
Nick Horny in his signature, relaxed styling, image by Filipe Phitzgerard.

N: Now a fashion-related question, do you have a 'work uniform' or do you deploy a more stylistic approach with clothing when you enter your studio?

NH: The studio is a very messy place, so it's old clothes, and overalls. It’s not a good look.

When I’m not in the studio, I live in day-to-night clothes that can go from a 4 pm meeting to dinner, to whatever. Smart enough to cope with any situation but comfortable. Black jeans, a t-shirt, a navy jacket, and sneakers. I’m a sneakerhead and have a lot of Nike classics: Air Max 1, Pegasus 89, as well as some Nike x A-Cold-Wall Zoom Vomero 5, some Adidas, and Off-White hi-tops.

Hornby's new sculpture for Harlow Art Trust,  image provided by artist.

N: Can you discuss what work you have in development?

NH: Yes, on 13 November I unveiled a monumental new commission. It stands 5m tall and weighs 2.5 tonnes. It was commissioned by Harlow Art Trust to mark the 100th work in the town’s sculpture collection which includes works by Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Ralph Brown, Lynn Chadwick, Lee Grandjean, Elizabeth Frink amongst many others. Very excited.  

Hornby's new sculpture for Harlow Art Trust, image provided by artist.


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