Jana Nicole at the Brighton Art Fair
So, after the subtle and delicate musings of Elaine Bolt this morning, I thought I would go to the other end of the spectrum with the works of Jana Nicole. If Bolt’s work is a calming sip of peppermint tea, then Nicole’s is a shot of tequila, a sniff of salt and a squeeze of lemon in the eye.
Walking around the private view yesterday, Nicole’s stand stood out as a horrific mess of dark thought, religious and pop iconography, and colour.
And I loved it. There are elements of Carrie Reichardt and a theatricality that is very unlike the rest of the show.
Talking to Nicole, she says there are 3 basic rules to her process: “It’s simple, before I make any of my work I think. 1 – Can I do it? 2 – Is there enough there? 3 – Can I learn anything?”
Nicole’s work comes from a point of truth. A lust for learning. It’s true, very few people seek to create something if they already know exactly how it’s going to look, and the process of creating is as much about the joy of learning as it is about the final product.
Nicole speaks of her head as a pinball machine with ideas bouncing around and the process of getting it down as a piece is a necessity for her, with the final simultaneously precious and inconsequential to her. A want to sell pieces, an ability to let go, but only to the right buyer, someone who truly understands her work.
Her honesty, and a ‘just do it’ attitude, in her ideas means that she challenges herself to learn. The “A-Z Series” is self-explanatory as an idea, but she uses it to find religions, popular icons that have been arrested and swear words, amongst others. This sounds like it could be relatively boring, but the A-Z of religions is an amazingly visually exciting piece. Each religion has a little window where she has expressed them from the sublime – a golden bull to represent Mormonism – to the slightly tongue-in-cheek – a joint for the Rastafarian window. The whole thing is wrapped in a priest robe and adorned with religious iconography.
The result is a mad mixture of ideas and icons – which is beautifully reflected by “Lady Luck Calypso”. Growing up in California (but now based in Wallingdon, just beyond Lewes), her mother used to drive to Vegas and leave a young Jana Nicole on the floor. Here she took in the lights and colours and became fascinated by the idea of Luck and superstition. A knock on the table here, a rub on prayer beads there… The resulting sculpture is an amalgamation of cultural ephemera that believe in luck. Egypt, Las Vegas, Catholicism, Voodoo and Native American Culture all feature. A haunting, horrific, beautifully strange sculpture.
Genuinely, I could talk about her all day, her work has so many details and references that you don’t see the first time. It also means I have been back to her stand 5 or 6 times today and have had to get this feature written just so tomorrow I can concentrate on everyone else!
Jana Nicole is someone that I will certainly be keeping my eye out for in the future.