Mike Nicholson lives and works in London, though he was born and raised in the county of Westmorland. He is an illustration graduate of St. Martins School of Art, whose professional career centres in editorial and publishing work but who is also still surprised to find himself as a storyboard artist for advertising, TV (with an emphasis on comedy) and (minor but potentially cult) films. He teaches at under- and post-graduate level, too, and has a fascination with the creation, sustenance and extension of narrative.
When he joined together with partner Mette Ambeck to exhibit at The London Artist’s Book Fair in 2000, he took the first step on a road that has most recently seen the publication of the 30th in an irregular series of word/image editions he calls ‘bio auto graphic’ (but which other people still regularly mistake as ‘autobiographic’).
Having conducted parallel careers driven solely by image – though underpinned by the ideas inside words – he assumed the joint role of artist/writer throughout what followed from the 2004 publication of a modest, multiple-copy A5 pamphlet/comic/zine he called ‘Issue Zero’.
Across over sixty book fairs and events since, and acquired and exhibited around the world (including by Tate Library, Manchester Metropolitan University, Leeds Art School, Winchester School of Art, British Library and Wellcome Library) the subsequent editions have been produced alongside, despite and in the face of all other activities, roles and deadlines. Stylistically their approach derives from representational drawing skills and tonally they encompass everything from stream of consciousness absurdity through politically current pre-emptive strikes to acutely frank coverage of intimate gains and losses.
The exhibition at UWE is one of a short sequence of events marking the arrival of the latest publication in the series, which began with the launch at the Small Publishers Fair in November 2017 and accompanying lecture, and will end with the publication of an article in ‘The Blue Notebook’ later in 2018.
The content of the exhibit centres on the artwork itself, alongside revealing material from Nicholson’s process. Having experimented in obvious – and tacit – ways with format and content with every issue so far, he feels that the newest edition of ‘bio auto graphic’ once again embodies his central themes and creative drivers, but speaks with a new stylistic voice. It has been an invigorating experience.
After the ascetic pleasures of the stark black line on a white page – mirroring the stylistic austerity of his storyboarding work, but married to a lifelong weakness for the comic strip’s conventions – the new piece runs to an expanded 36-pages, and uses the sumptuous possibilities of digital colour to enhance a scanned pencil line. Pencil, paper and pixel combine in a new way to tell the on-going story.
The edition is called ‘Chameleon Skin Coat’.
Whether it represents a bespoke future classic or is merely the Emperor’s New Clothes is up to the reader – and visitor to UWE Bower Ashton Library – to decide.
For more information, please see: Ensixteen Editions