Nick Whittle Artist




Texts

The Journey

To Be A Man

To Fly and To Root

A Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Whittle's Graphic Work

Nick Whittle's Graphic Prints and Poetry

Caliban's Metamorphosis





Whittle's Graphic Work

“My Land” is the title of the print I am looking at. I a drawn to it, I think, because of its candor and unpretentiousness - its stark black-white contrast and the cadenced variations of a few basic forms. Yet this simplicity is deceptive.

“My Land” describes an object in a downward spiraling movement. The object, which can be read as a spearhead, an anchor, a missile, a flower-bud or even a traveling spermatozoon, is linked via an umbilical cord to a similarly ambiguous form above it – it may be the setting sun mirrored in the water, thus suggesting a horizon-line just about a quarter below the upper edge of the print, or it may be an eye, a mouth, a vulva. The jagged border of sunrays above the sinking sun is replicated twice below and holds in check the object on its determined course towards an unseen destiny. All of these connotations and relationships are indicative of the symbolic vocabulary known from Whittle’s other oeuvre and allow us to conclude, that the prints offer us a concentrate of that lyricism, which discretely suffuses also his larger works (usually executed in mixed media), but which is often contested by the more complex and polemic character of those works.

Another print is titled “Intertidal Zone”. It’s vibrating, wave-like horizontal lines and the bobbing circular bodies inserted between these lines – like a pebble skimming across the water’s surface – makes me think of it as a “Bridget Riley”-landscape: op-art’s measured economy and scientific use of optic effects paired with Whittle’s deeply romantic love of nature!

But such rhythmic compositions characterize most of Whittle’s prints, which indeed are distinguished by their technical sobriety – there is no indulgence in mark-making or overlaying-techniques – no invocation of the voice of the medium itself. The woodcut is allowed to be what it is in its most naked form, and this is what gives the prints their overwhelming, sometimes touching intensity. Touching because they almost seem like sonnets – these brief, but serene odes to nature, to simplicity, to form itself.

The land/sea-scape, which in the larger works is the location for Whittle’s persistent inquiry into issues of politics and identity are here reduced to lines, circles, spirals, shells and derivative forms, often reminiscent of human organs. The formal relations between these shapes are analyzed through variations and repetition and reinforced by the color-contrast - usually black and white (though occasionally black is replaced with a warm Siena yellow), as well as by the equal prominence of positive and negative spaces.

The artist’s deep-seated perception of the complementary elements of the landscape as a male-female dichotomy also resounds in the prints – needless to say that the poetry infusing these works is deeply erotic. Man and woman, mankind and nature, day and night, ocean and sky all reflect and fertilize each other in an eternal, restless pas de deux. Yet this holistic vision is neither complacent nor facile. In the prints Whittle has not abandoned the quest which is the essential driving force behind all his work. He has, however, allowed himself to locate an answer, even if a tentative and personal one – a poetic rather than a political truth, so to speak: that at the beginning and possibly at the end of all inquiries lies a sensory experience. But Whittle arrives at this recognition, not through the abandonment of the intellect, but on the contrary through a stylized, calculated manipulation of forms and concepts – a method, which is at once playful and profound.

Therese Hadchity