Nicola Tyson in conversation with Rebecca Fortnum

Drawing Room is pleased to present the sixth film in a series of recorded conversations that derive from A Companion to Contemporary Drawing, a recently published book edited by Kelly Chorpening and Rebecca Fortnum, which explores how 20th and 21st century artists have used drawing to understand and comment on the world and features contributions from Drawing Room Co-Director Kate Macfarlane.

This conversation features Rebecca Fortnum in conversation with artist Nicola Tyson, whose work has continued to gain recognition for its reimagining of the female figure in relation to concepts of identity and the social gaze. She sets out to describe the female body as experienced rather than merely observed. Moving beyond a mimetic, objectifying approach, she explores the body as a constantly shifting set of felt coordinates. Through this process, her distinctive images often blur the distinction between representation and abstraction.

Nicola Tyson was born in 1960 in London, England. She attended Chelsea School of Art, St. Martins School of Art and Central/St. Martins School of Art in London and currently lives and works in upstate New York. Primarily known as a painter, Tyson has also worked with photography, film, performance and the written word. Most recently, she was the subject of a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri. In 2011 Tyson released the limited-edition book Dead Letter Men, a collection of satirical letters addressing famous male artists. The book was designed by Peter Miles and published by Petzel Gallery, New York and Sadie Coles HQ, London. Her unique archive of color photos documenting the London club scene of the late 1970’s — Bowie Nights at Billy’s Club — was the subject of shows, both in New York and London, in 2012 and 2013. She had a solo exhibition Beyond the Trace at Drawing Room in 2017 and was included in the group exhibition The Nakeds in 2014. Tyson’s work is included in major collections such as Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and Tate Modern, London. She is represented by Petzel Gallery in New York and Sadie Coles HQ in London. 

Rebecca Fortnum is an artist, writer and academic. Fortnum studied at Camberwell College of Art, Corpus Christi College, Oxford (English), Newcastle University (MFA) and Kingston University (PhD). She has been a Reader in Fine Art at University of the Arts London, Professor of Fine Art at Middlesex University and at the Royal College of Art, and from June will be Head of School of Fine Art at Glasgow School of Art.  She has had solo shows at Freud Museum and the V&A’s Museum of Childhood, as well as numerous group shows including most recently, ‘Motherline’, Flowers East (London), ‘Sleepy Heads’, Blyth Gallery (London), ‘49.5’, 601 Art Space (New York), and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (London). A monograph, Self Contained, with essays by Maria Walsh, Graham Music and Louisa Minkin was published by RGAP in 2013. In 2019 she was elected Visiting Research Fellow in Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford, where she developed her project, A Mind Weighted with Unpublished Matter, published by Slimvolume in 2020. Fortnum has held an Abbey Award at the British School in Rome, individual awards from the Arts Council of England, the AHRC, the British Council and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation amongst others. Her book of interviews, Contemporary British Women Artists: In Their Own Words, was published by Bloomsbury in 2007 and On Not Knowing: How Artists Think, co-edited with Lizzie Fisher, was published by Black Dog in 2013. She is the Founding Editor of the Journal of Contemporary Painting.   A Companion to Contemporary Drawing (2020), which she co-edited with Kelly Chorpening, includes her chapter, ‘A Dirty Double Mirror: Drawing, Autobiography and Feminism’, which explores the feminist potential of the ‘autographical’ in work by Frances Stark, Emma Talbot and Nicola Tyson.  

Nicola TysonPre Non-Snowstorm Self-PortraitCourtesy the artist and Petzel, New York. 2015