BA (Hons) Fine Art, Bath Spa University

My work has changed hugely over the past three years. The course has challenged and pushed me to become an expert in my own field, to take risks, be ambitious and see my practice in a holistic way.

I have gone from making small-scale paper works, dabbling in acrylics, inks and graphite to now making large-scale oil paintings on panelled boards which I make myself. Previously my work was bitty, ethereal and unspecific. It’s now a fully formed, contextualised body of research supported by practical work which still has wiggle room for questions and adaptions.

I have learnt the value of not knowing what’s going on. Every so often, I consciously pull back in my practice, back to looking at stuff, reading, observing and rooting my work in things that I am fundamentally interested in.

For my degree show I am planning to make a triptych or quadriptych of panelled oil paintings. I am currently making a series of three paintings based on specific memories of moments in landscape. I am interested in the gaps between what we see and the language we use to describe it.

My process always begins with writings made in specific places and these words become cornerstones of my practice. They sit in the studio with me and I then fill in the gaps with drawings, photographs and collages, a catalogue of ‘stuff’ for each experience or moment.

My paintings are about reimagining these moments, with references to colour, weather, location and feeling as markers of the specific experience. Within the paintings I seek to balance the similarities between motifs and methods found in both the act of nature and the act of painting. I have formed an odd but strong relationship between topography and painting and I’m planning to take the most successful parts of my three current paintings into the multi-panelled piece for my degree show.

The show is about seeing something through, taking and idea which has been rolling around in my head since year one, seeing how it has morphed and flexed and changed over the years, giving it a physical presence. The degree show will force me to make critical decisions, take risks in my paintings and try things out, and most importantly come to some sort of resolve in the work.

The looming prospect of a degree show acts as this kind of momentum for me to keep making the best work I can. For me it’s still about the art.

I know for a lot of people the degree show is a wonderful opportunity to make connections and further their professional practice, which I am planning to do, however for me it is still about the practicalities. It’s been such an amazing learning curve, almost a disruption to my practice, but in a good way.

Actually learning how to negotiate space, how to install something sympathetically and successfully, how to present yourself as an artist are huge points of growth and development. For art students, to have a deadline of sorts is really crucial. Knowing how to manage studio time and plan in advance for a show is a huge thing to have in your arsenal after graduation.

I have a calendar with a huge red cross on it where I need to stop painting so that the oil paint will actually be dry for degree show.

After graduation I plan to rest. At least for a while. I’m interested to see what making art from rest and not necessity looks like. I am planning to do an MFA in the future but I am really excited to see what making will feel like without all the ‘art school voices’ around. I think art school is the most wonderful, challenging and intriguing place to be but to some extent it is a sensory overload and I’m looking forward to pairing things back both conceptually and practically and navigating painting in this manner.

Degree show: 9-17 June.

Holly Nicholls, Work Door.

Holly Nicholls, Unclouded.

1. Holly Nicholls, Swell.
2. Holly Nicholls, Work Door.
3. Holly Nicholls, Unclouded.