‘I see this feel in the shape of a smile’ (#3)

Nicola Singh (1986 - )

pigment on paper


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  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Government Art Collection

    This drawing is part of a series titled 'I see this feel in the shape of a smile' (2018) produced by Nicola Singh during her residency at Hongti Art Centre, Busan in South Korea, and exhibited the same year in a group show at Caustic Coastal Gallery, Salford.

    The work is made gesturally and performatively. Singh rubs, grabs, spreads and traces the form of her body with pigment beneath Korean Hanji paper to produce these forms. The artist came to the practice after having drunk sex, fresh from a break-up. An intentional act – in the thick of sadness – to move the physical and energetic memory of her former lover away from her body. 

    I was disappointed and drunk.

    You were humming in regular rhythm to your movements – fucking disappointment, fucking’s disappointment, fuck disappointment. A disappointing fuck.

    I was thinking about the beaded toe rings that were on sale in the hotel reception.

    You murmured something about being inside me, which made me feel you like a tampon, so I shifted round. Experimenting with the position of my body to see if it changed the resonance of your voice.

    The next morning I realised I hadn’t used my hands

    I’d used my knees as hands, manoeuvring your middle into position. The inside of my left knee my thumb, my calf and ankle the fingers that nudged you over.

    I don't know if it's actually true, the knees thing, but that's my memory of the experience.

    Bonne Bainbridge Cohen says that ‘the mind is like the wind and the body is like the sand; if you want to know how the wind is blowing, you can look at the sand.’

    'Journal' [extract] (2018), ink on paper, 2 x A4 sheets

    Spooked by the consciousness of her body at this moment, Singh continued to explore these experiences in the studio. Working between notions of physicality and materiality, to create a series of drawings that preserve and prioritise the felt or feeling experience.

    Singh also explored this process with clay and PVC plastic materials, and kept a journal of texts to capture these experiences and processes (as extracted above).

  • About the artist
    Born in Newcastle, Nicola Singh studied Experimental Music and Visual Art (2005-2008) at Dartington College of Arts. She then completed an MA in Curating Performance at Sunderland University (2011) and a subsequent practice-led PhD thesis-by-performance at Northumbria University (2017). Her multidisciplinary practice is rooted in performance and moves across disciplines, as she responds to contexts of feelings and chance, encounters and dialogue, and to location and place. She prioritises performative, discursive and physical approaches to her practice, research and pedagogy. Singh was selected for the Jerwood Charitable Foundation 3-Phase programme in 2017 leading to performances and exhibitions at Bankside, London; WORKPLACE, Gateshead (2018); and Eastside Projects, Birmingham (2018); and was artist in residence at Hongti Art Centre, Busan, South Korea (2018); followed by a solo exhibition at BALTIC 39, Newcastle (2018).
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  • Details
    ‘I see this feel in the shape of a smile’ (#3)
    pigment on paper
    height: 94.5 cm; width: 64.4 cm
    Purchased from the artist March 2021, through the Art XUK project 2020-21
    The artist; from whom purchased by UK Government Art Collection, 18 March 2021
    GAC number