Everlyn Nicodemus and Stephanie Straine in conversation
Spring Term, sees the return of the Royal Drawing School series of Creative Conversations; online dialogues between artists, curators and writers. Curated by Dr Claudia Tobin, lectures are held Wednesday evenings live on Zoom.
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'Oh, yes!', 1985, Everlyn Nicodemus, Oil on canvas, 186 x 104 cm, (ENI032).
Copyright The Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery London and Rome
One of the strongest feminist voices to emerge from Africa in the past 30 years, Everlyn Nicodemus is an artist, writer and curator. As an artist, she produces powerful works centred on personal and cultural trauma as well as the role art can play in healing, while her research and curatorial interests focus on the history of modern African art.
Throughout her travels, she has taken an active involvement in community life, giving voice especially to the marginalization of women throughout history and making visible their shared traumas and experiences. Her response to her own ordeal with PTSD and personal grief is a major factor in her work, as is her research investigating art from Africa in relation to human suffering and societal responsibility, on which she completed a PhD African Modern Art and Black Cultural Trauma from Middlesex University in 2012.
This conversation will explore Nicodemus’ lifelong commitment to the pluralistic medium and materials of drawing, ahead of her upcoming retrospective at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in October 2024, for which the artist recently won the Freelands Award 2022. During the pandemic she completed a defiant and joyful cycle of over one hundred drawings utilising pages – both collaged and digitally scanned – from cherished books of poetry. This series, Untitled (Baudelaire and Rimbaud) (2020–22), will be included in the exhibition, alongside examples from Nicodemus’ extensive artist bookmaking practice, particularly her landmark Black Books (1995–96). Together they convey her belief that ‘language and image are very much intertwined. They are done with care.’
Everlyn Nicodemus was born in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania in 1954, and her life has been marked by movement: herself part of a moving diaspora which she documents in her writing and art making. Moving across Europe – to Sweden, France, and Belgium before finally settling in the UK – her experience of racism and cultural trauma has prompted the creation of a unique body of work encompassing paintings, collaged ‘books’ and mixed-media assemblages as well as poems, using unusual materials to explore human experience, from metal nettings and sisal to textiles and found objects.
Nicodemus lives and works in Edinburgh. She was awarded the 2022 Freelands Foundation Award for her upcoming solo exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2024/25. Her work has been included in various solo and group exhibitions, including The New African Portraiture: Shariat Collections, curated by Ekow Eshun, Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2022), Hacking Habitat: Art of Control, Utrecht, Holland (2016); 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012), curated by art historian Catherine de Zegher; Bystander on Probation, The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal, UK (2007); Crossing the Void, Cultural Center Strombeek, Brussels, Belgium (2004); Displacements, University of Alicante, Spain (1997); Vessels of Silence, Kanaal Art Foundation, Kortrijk, Belgium (1992); and the solo exhibition Everlyn Nicodemus, National Museum, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. (1980).
Dr Stephanie Straine is Senior Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. She publishes widely on the post-war and contemporary period, with a focus on artists working with drawing, including Vija Celmins, Kate Davis, Edward Krasiński, Cinthia Marcelle, Jackson Pollock, Ed Ruscha, Lucy Skaer, Franz Erhard Walther, and Andy Warhol. Previous roles include Curator of Exhibitions and Projects at Modern Art Oxford; Assistant Curator, Exhibitions and Displays at Tate Liverpool; and Exhibitions Organiser at Fruitmarket, Edinburgh. She holds a joint MA Fine Art degree from the University of Edinburgh/Edinburgh College of Art, an MLitt from the University of Glasgow, and a PhD in the History of Art from University College London, funded by an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award in partnership with Tate. She is Board Chair of the non-profit David Dale Gallery and Studios, Glasgow.
'Untitled No 56 (Baudelaire and Rimbaud)', 2022, Everlyn Nicodemus , pencil, ink and collage on paper, 45 x 32 cm, (ENI384). Copyright The Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery London and Rome
Cover image: 'Untitled No 56 (Baudelaire and Rimbaud)', 2022, Everlyn Nicodemus , pencil, ink and collage on paper, 45 x 32 cm, (ENI384). Copyright The Artist, Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery London and Rome