Connecting with Nicholas Romeril: I trust my Instinct

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Nick Romeril Antarctica Ben Shread

Ben Shread

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.

Andre Gide

When I visited Nick Romeril‘s latest solo exhibition Dear Water in Private & Public Gallery. Surrounded by his paintings, I felt as if I was looking through the pages of a diary, a visual narrative of his relationship with ever changing nature. His big scale paintings, Beautiful Above, Promises, Frozen Forms, Carving, A Blue Berg, have an instant walk-in effect. His hyper realistic work absorbed me and brought back my own memories of living among the vast snow and rough sea. 

Jersey – what comes to your mind?

Beautiful, safe, small island which has a developing artistic community. There are some very good connections to the wider art world.

What is your most memorable experience?

Making a very clear decision to become an artist while I was studying for my Fine Art degree and my father passed away.

If there were a movie about your life, what would be the name of the movie and which actor would play you? 

The name of the movie would be “In. On. By. The Sea”. Benedict Cumberbatch would take the lead.

Beautiful Above Romeril
Beautiful, Above 2016

If you could own any artwork, what would it be?

A Giorgio Morandi‘s still life.

From a very young age I was also fascinated with impressionism and the way the impressionists captured light working directly from nature.

What do you think is the best way to connect with experience art?

Physical contact with the actual artwork is my preferred way. Although viewing visual art online is useful, the experience of visiting galleries and museums is one of the things that I miss the most. 

While studying Fine Art, what challenged you the most?

Writing the dissertation and creating the degree show were the most challenging times. I had made a new body of work especially for my degree show. They were works that I thought had a clever meaning but when I put them up I was completely disappointed. They did not engage with the audience. So at the last minute I swapped them for slightly older work of groups of brightly coloured abstract balls on flat backgrounds. I had a great response to them and sold them all! I have ever since trusted my instinct. 

During my degree I had started to visit the print room to experiment with the processors. I really enjoy monotypes and wanted to explore the processes more. The MA was a part time course so I could have several occupations at the same time. I ran a small gardening business, worked in my painting studio and did my MA printing course. These were really lovely times when you are just starting out. 

Frozen Forms Romeril
Frozen Forms 2018, 130cm x 180cm

How essential were the critique sessions for your practice?

The tutors would walk around and descend on me while I was in my studio, unannounced. Group tutorials were very tricky and questioned every aspect of your thought process. I didn’t feel I was very good at it as my motivations were, and still are to create arresting works of art which stop the viewer in their tracks and engage with them. I don’t have any high flung concept. The main thing I learnt was to be self critical, flexible, energetic and initiative. 

Since 1995 you teach in the Art School in Highlands College. What is teaching for you?

I teach Fine Art practise, covering all disciplines from painting, printmaking to sculpture and installation. For me, teaching means being able to help students to determine what they wish to create and help them create it. You need to be able to ask the questions that allow students to find their own answers while remaining open and curious.

Do you think formal education plays essential role in becoming an artist?

I don’t think formal education is essential, however it can help the student find a solution to their creative output easier. You are given a set of rules to help you become confident in what you do.

A Blue Berg Romeril
A Blue Berg

Both of your sons are artists. Did you encourage them to become artists?

William is a silversmith and Danny is a painter. I did not actively encourage them to become artists. It is not a job but a vocation. If you are lucky enough to make a living from it, well done, but that should not be the reason to make art.

I think that art is not taught to children, it’s taught out of children. It is naturally part of their creative being.

What is your experience on collaboration with other artists?

I often collaborate with other artists. I enjoy the experience a lot. I find that we respond to each other’s creative process. It’s nice to work with others who have a different skill set.

However, I don’t want to work with other people in my studio. It is a very private space. I prefer working with other artists on projects, which usually happen in another workplace.

Carving Romeril
Carving 2018, 130cm x 90cm

Your latest solo show Dear Water in Private & Public Gallery was a tremendous success. How do you plan an exhibition?

I tend to plan exhibitions one year in advance so I can build a theme for a body of work. I don’t follow strict rules when it comes to the placement of the artworks. I arrange them in order to create a dialogue between each work, making sure that each piece engages the observer.

Generally, I prefer solo shows as they enable the viewer to respond to the work as a whole. To me, group shows, unless very well curated, are merely snapshots of the works.

Promises Romeril

Your work depicts eternal elements in the moment, whether it is a splashing wave or still ice or snow. What inspires you to start a painting?

I am surrounded by the sea and feel inspired by it. The sea is very dramatic and beautiful and the reason why I like to work with it. Yet, I do change my themes naturally when I feel strongly for a subject. Usually, I work on many paintings at the same time, so a theme generally runs through the work. There is a connection between each exhibition. This way I can place my old works next to my new works, and there is still a dialogue.

This year, I am hoping to travel to South Africa on Safari for an artist residency for WILDLIFE ACT. This would enable me to experience wild animals up close and paint the African plains.