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Brighton Journal | 28th January 2020

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Artist of the week: Nick Bodimeade

Artist of the week: Nick Bodimeade
Hannah Midgley

This week, The Brighton Journal spoke to Nick Bodimeade, a well established painter from Lewes, who is using Boulder Brighton as inspiration for his latest project.
We even went climbing together before discussing his artwork!

Nick explained that his love for climbing comes from the sports “fantastic combination of doing, looking and thinking”. Similarly, James, from Boulder Brighton told the Brighton Journal

“I got hooked on bouldering because of the mix of physical challenge and problem-solving. You have to use your whole body, including your brain, to get you to the top!” (James- Boulder Brighton)

The connection Nick and James highlight between the mental and physical components of bouldering is one of the reasons why the sport is becoming increasingly popular and is also what makes the paintings in Nick’s series so interesting.

‘Climbers, when planning a route, get so excited about where their eye is going that they mime’.

In the same way that climbers must mentally plan their route before physically executing a climb, Nicks’ paintings invite viewers to follow this calculated direction and rhythm through the depiction of holds on the canvas in a guided pattern which “keeps the attention of the eye in the painting”.

“On the wall, you are led by an idea of moving through space, in an attempt to follow a route, and in these paintings, you are following a similar direction and rhythm.”

To create the holds for his paintings, Nick draws the ‘rocks’ in pencil, cuts them out and then moves them around the canvas, in a process which parellels the placing of holds on a climbing wall to make for an interesting climb.

” There’s also an increasing focus on aesthetics in the sport, with route setters and centre owners thinking much more about how the space and the climbs look and feel, to create an interesting environment that can also be a visual treat.” (James, Boulder Brighton) 

Nick explained that a climbing wall not only presents a current puzzle to be solved, but it depicts the “history of where holds have been”, something he mimics in his paintings through creating “ghost images” of previous holds.

Nick and I explored the idea that the biomorphic holds on a climbing wall are almost sculptural. Not only are the unevenly shaped boulders sculpted by a human hand, they are also created to be used in specific ways by different parts of the human body. He explained that through envisaging holds as sculptures, there is also a space in which to imagine a three-dimensional relationship with the human hand in this series.

“Operating simultaneously in these paintings is the hand of the person who has sculpted the rock, the hand of the artist who has painted the rock and the hand of the observer, imagining where they would hold.”

Behind this concept of the three-dimensional hand, Nick discussed that the mirroring of the climbing wall also creates a relationship between the wall in the painting and the exhibiting wall, allowing for an enticing portrayal of “wall on a wall”.

The mutual flat surface means that the lumps, or holds, make sense on the wall because they create a ‘shallow relief on a flat plane’.

We discussed how the imagined climber, artist and viewer are unified through the search for a pattern and solution to the bouldering holds. He explained that “what appears initially as weird, random chaos eventually becomes a pattern as the climber starts to plan a route.” Perhaps it is this mental formation of a logical route, envisioning how the human body will move to succeed, that makes the climbing wall so fantastic.

To a viewer who has never participated in bouldering as a sport, and therefore may not make the connection between the pattern of the holds and tactical route that an imagined climber could take, Nick’s paintings are still visually stimulating and “optically enticing”. This is achieved through the layering of patterns, including the pattern of the bolt holes, the pattern of the ghost holds, and the pattern on the holds themselves.

“We want a slight visual conundrum that holds our attention – we feel it’s worth looking but we don’t want it to be spelled out to us”

Whilst pieces from this series may at first appear to be drastically different from the beach scenes Nick is known for, there is in fact, a visual similarity. Both encompass objects – rocks or people, and the mutual relationship that these objects have with the environment – the wall or the beach. These paintings of bouldering walls can even be viewed as “a weird simulation of a landscape phenomenon” as the manmade holds have been placed to perform in a way that is visually similar to a boulder or rock face, depicting an “interesting simulation of the natural environment.”

Nick closing the door to his studio

Nick has taught at many schools and colleges, and exhibits with, St Annes Galleries (Lewes), Porthminster Gallery (St Ives) and Zimmer Stewart Gallery (Arundel). His work is held in many public and private collections and he is a trustee of children’s Art charity Patina. He is
planning a solo show of the paintings at St Annes Galleries for later this year

A link to his website is available here

His Instagram handle is: nick_bodimeade, the link is available here.

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