The Flowers gallery has created an immersive den in which Nicola Hicks’ phantasmagorical sculptures inhabit. Grey walls contribute to the dark and oppressive dense reigning atmosphere. Erected from the floor, placed on pedestals like trophies or erupting from the ceiling top, the sculptures both fascinate and overwhelm.
Animals, mythical creatures and human hybrids compose the world of British artist Hicks, who applies layers of plaster straws on the body of her large-scaled sculptures. Wabbling Back to the Fire regroups works from 1999 to present day.
The walk in between the creatures is uncanny. The execution of the sculptures flirts with reality and their imposing size generates a sense of fear mixed with intermittent examination about the representations too close approaching reality. Bear, buffalo, moose, and cat-like amorphous shapes animate the Burtonesque landscape. It seems like all the figures are part of a narrative which froze over time, a finger snap could awaken this enchanted world and we would take part in a magical tale surrounded by extraordinary heroes.
One of the newest piece entitled Willow demonstrates Hicks’ ability to ebb her sculptures while retaining her style and using her rich imaginative repertoire. The whole sculpture, a tree sitting next to a bridge haunted by crows, resembles a shadow. It is an unwelcoming scene which seems could only appeal to melancholic and darkened souls.
The first floor is comprised of other types of sculptures, busts and small figurines which escaped from Aesop’s fables and rebirthed in the hands of Hicks. Other sculptures allude to human forms disguised and hidden underneath animal skins. Even though the texture doesn’t allow one to discern much details, when staring directly into Brave and Aesop‘s eyes, I flinch . These portraits carry within themselves enough enigma and human aura to give off the impression that they could become alive. Is it because the artist hid some of her feelings in her humanoid sculptures, acting as a mirror reflecting her soul?
The charcoal drawings and the Chelsea figurines fade into the imposing black sculptures inhabiting the dramatic realm of the gallery.
Coming down back to the ground floor, overlooked by the giant sculptures, I feel the urgency to leave versus the desire to explore and imagine stories of my own. Halfway between fantasy and reality, the exhibition plays with raw emotions such as fear and tests one’s ability to push beyond the feeling of butterflies. If it was allowed to remain still for hours, we could re-invent ourselves as peculiar characters and take part in Hicks’ fantastic tales.
Wabbling back to the fire: Nicola Hicks at Flowers Gallery (19 September – 11 November 2017)