Fall down the rabbit hole with multi-media artist Nina Saunders, whose work with furniture and taxidermy is witty, elegant and powerful
I first discovered Nina Saunders’ work while on a course at Chelsea College of Art. She came to speak and showed some slides and I remember being completely blown away because the images elicited an actual, physical reaction – as if my body groaned and sighed. It wasn’t a negative feeling, more one of instinctual familiarity; as though I ‘felt’ the work.
I mentioned this to her when we met up for a chat at Hang-Up Gallery in Stoke Newington recently and her response resonated as much as her work does:
“Your body already has a relationship with a chair which is so familiar. It instinctively knows how to respond – it anticipates sitting down, for instance. But then the tables are turned because the chair is altered in some profound way and your body reacts instinctively, trying to process that new information.”
As we talked, we lamented the fact that words often get in the way when one is asked to explain their work as a visual artist. After all, it’s called visual art for a reason. Additionally, the audience brings themselves to the work – art is perceived through one’s own lens and is a very personal experience.
Interestingly, Nina says that once a piece is finished and released into the world she feels that it’s no longer hers; it belongs to the audience.
Originally from Denmark, Nina came to London at the age of 17, where she met, fell in love with and eventually married the acclaimed photographer Red Saunders, one of the founders of Rock against Racism, a movement that had a profound influence and cultural impact in the late 1970’s. I can only imagine what an exciting time that must have been.
Nina earned a First Class degree at Central Saint Martins College of Art and, as luck would have it, Charles Saatchi came across her work and bought a piece. As they say, ‘the rest is history’, which includes an impressive list of exhibitions, solo shows, museum shows, numerous awards and public art commissions. In addition to being highly regarded in London’s contemporary art world, Nina is one of Denmark’s leading contemporary artists. Her work is held in collections in the UK and internationally, including The Arts Council, The V&A and Denmark’s Esbjerg Kunstmuseum, to name but three.
Alongside the current Hang-Up Collections Autumn Edition show (go see it but be quick – it ends on 2nd Dec), Nina has just released a collection of limited edition prints and is currently working on two more, and, as she says, “a print that’s turning into an installation and back again”, Tea with Andy (Warhol), which will be exhibited at Hang-Up Gallery from 24th January.
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Cover image: Greta’s Party 2015, Hermes flagship store, Madison Avenue, NYC; photo ©Tom Sibley