ARTIST in CON.TEXT: Nicole Coson

Untitled I, 2015, monotype print on paper, 101 x 152cm

Untitled I, 2015

Nicole Coson is a Filipino artist living and working in London, where she graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins with first degree honours in July 2014. She had two solo exhibitions in Manila, Philippines in 2013 and 2014 as well as one in Rome, Italy and her first solo show in London ‘How to Appear Without a Trace’ at Display Gallery in 2015. Coson’s work revolves around the analogy of the ghost: a loose and phantom form that, though beyond our grasp, invades our tactile and physical world. The suggestion of movement—or rather, of momentum— is integral to her work; the singular impression of the monotype printmaking process captures the blur of fleeting signals in stasis, leaving behind a flurry of figures that appear almost recognisably and residually human in both her figurative and non-figurative works. Human-like yet alien, present yet spectral; for the viewer, these images might call to mind the unsettled nervousness of Sigmund Freud’s concept of the Uncanny. Through her work she seeks the contemplation of something caught mid-flight, captured for a brief moment in time, when these forms become strangely perceptible, but whose physical make-up and origin are impenetrable.

Where are you based?

My practice is based in London, and my work is split between two studios in Hackney. One is my own private space, quiet and a place for thoughts. The other is a shared space which allows me access to one of London largest etching presses which I’ve been using to produce the majority of my work for my show ‘How To Appear Without A Trace’.

How would you describe your work?

Whilst none of my work is actually reproducible, I would describe my work as print based. Monotype printmaking has constantly opened more and more doors for me in terms of new ideas and outcomes. I see it is a way of capturing a moment never to be repeated again; the image made becomes the residue of an event. Afterwards, the plate is washed and can be used to make a new print. No invasive or corrosive treatment is made on the plate, the process does not involve engraving or acids therefore once the ink has made its way from plate to paper, you end up with tabula rasa.

What types of media do you work with?

I work with wool, ink, paper, linen and perpex. I really like the organic rawness of wool and linen against a material like perspex which was first developed in laboratories by chemists. You begin to see these materials for their taxonomical value as it calls for the the viewers to assume the role of a biologist studying an unknown organism. For my more sculptural works, the wool is encased between two sheets of perpex that are bolted together, almost as an specimen within the slides of microscope.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently trying to further my understanding of printmaking as a resource of communication and its potential within contemporary and the expanded field of painting. I wish to open up an conversation on how the technique can transcend its own perceived connotations and limitations (historically a tool for the mass spread of knowledge and later propaganda).

What influences your work?

For the exhibition ‘How to Appear Without a Trace’, I was looking at Rorshach tests. Ambiguous designs that could be this or that, almost like moving blobs evading my ability to perceive them. I find their elusive nature beautiful. The beauty of the Rorschach test is in its ambiguity, and the ability of the image to seem open ended and limitless. Same goes with cloud formations and Chinese scholar rocks; we know what is before us, but we ponder over them and somehow we begin to reflect internally instead.

How do you begin a working day?

A lot of preparation goes in to making prints before I can actually get started like preparing the paper, rolling and kneading the inks and blanketing the press. I try and spend this meditative time thinking about my work whilst my muscles perform movements remembered from having done it a million times before. I think it’s very important to constantly assess and reassess myself and my intentions before getting started.

“Climax” is the theme of our third print issue. What does the word “Climax” mean to you?

To me, climax is the elation I experience when I see a good print for a first time. When I make work, I am basically doing it blind as the only time I see what I’m doing is when the finished product is already before me. When the inked plate meets its support, the materials are for a moment forcefully fused by 3000 lbs of pressure per square inch as it is fed through the etching press, the image then transfers completely from the shiny metal surface and is absorbed by the porous fibres of paper. That moment, when the metal and paper is conjoined by ink, is the perfect lead up to the climactic big reveal; when the only thing left to do is peel it apart and see the resulting image.

Untitled II, 2014, monotype print on paper, 56 x 76cm

Untitled II, 2014

Untitled IV, 2015, monotype print on paper, 101 x 152cm

Untitled IV, 2015

Untitled V, 2015, monotype print on paper, 101 x 152cm

Untitled V, 2015

Untitled III, 2015, monotype print on paper, 101 x 152cm

Untitled III, 2015

Photos courtesy of the artist.

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