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Nicol Vizioli is an enigmatic photographer who has exhibited internationally, and defies boundaries and materials as an artist. Blending historical and philosophical inspirations with a gritty, but lush aesthetic, Nicol produces work that boldly links the past with the present and future. Her images portray the human condition in all its ugliness and beauty. Currently Nicol is represented by Officine dell’Immagine of Milan. Nicol was kind enough to spend some time elucidating her process, past and prospects with beautiful.bizarre for Issue 014.
Justine: As a busy artist, it’s inspiring that you take time to lecture at schools and universities around the world. How did you fall into teaching, and why were you first attracted to arts education?
I think it is a very beautiful and natural way of giving back. I wouldn’t call it teaching. It is more about sharing experiences, and that is a big privilege.
Your work definitely has an aspect of narrative and storytelling within the photos, so the fact that you’re working on your first film seems like a very natural shift. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and your process?
A year ago, I was approached by the London Contemporary Orchestra regarding a possible collaboration. They were interested in exploring the work of Giacinto Scelsi, in particular a very complex piece for strings, divided in four movements, and invited me to translate that experience with moving images. I never shot a film before, and despite that, they trusted my vision, giving me total freedom of expression. I am very grateful for that. It was shot in Iceland and it was an incredible experience, which opened up so many possibilities. The work is proposed as a continuous flux between images and sounds and will be presented as an installation including video, sound, and sculptures, hopefully in the winter. An extract of this project will be screened on August 25 during a live performance at the Roundhouse; it will be a huge scale immersive installation on the Ron Arad’s 360° curtain call. On this occasion, the orchestra will perform a piece by John Tavener. It is a unique opportunity and a one off event, and I am very excited about it.
I have been feeling very tired of photography for a couple of years now, so this was the perfect occasion to finally experiment with a different medium. It was great. It doesn’t really matter to me what language I use or will use: what really matters is the journey and the integrity of the vision. My goal is to get as close as possible to that, and to achieve it I would use anything that I feel curious about in that specific moment. It has been photography for few years, now I just did this film, then we shall see. It is an exciting season, I feel focused.
When did painting and photography meet? Was this something you did from the beginning or did you evolve into that practice?
I’ve been painting and drawing for my entire life, then I started working with photography. Painting, drawing, photography, moving images or sculpture: they influence each other. They are all part of the same journey.
I know you’re asked this pretty often however it would be lovely to give our readers a little background information on yourself. When did you first start creating artwork, and what inspired you as a kid to become an artist?
I don’t think you can decide to become an artist. It is in your nature and nature cannot be forced: you have it or you don’t. As far as I can remember, I have always been creating images, starting with painting, which is my first love, since I was a child. My father is a photographer, one day he gave me an old camera so I could play. However, that was it, nothing more. I never chose to be a photographer in particular. I got my first degree in Rome, where I studied Cinema & Digital Arts. At that time, I had a studio where I would only draw and paint (or try to), while starting to take photography more seriously and wanted to explore the moving image world. Then I had a crisis. All these languages confused me, and I felt I had to choose something in order to focus and fully find myself. So I chose photography and two years later I moved to London, where I completed a Master at LCF, University of the Arts London. It is through photography that I shaped my aesthetic, but my work is naturally changing and I am finally able and ready to explore other forms. I don’t belong to this or that language: I am now interested in creating wider experiences therefore exploring new forms. I am currently planning two projects, which include still, and moving images as well as physical objects and sculptures.
You also do a lot of fashion photography. What about fashion drew you in, and what does fashion mean to you?
To be honest it doesn’t mean anything in particular to me. However, yes, I do collaborate with fashion designers and I occasionally shoot fashion editorial. I find it interesting; sometimes it can be another declination of my work, another way of storytelling. Only sometimes, not always. It is, again, about integrity of vision. No matter what language you use and what field you explore, as long as you recognize yourself in your work.
There are a series of wet plate photos on your website that are amazing. When and why did you start using such an antique process, and are there any other photographic processes that you’d like to experiment with?
The wet plate collodion is a very special technique: a slow and spiritual way of approaching photography, which made me feel connected again with this language. I discovered it a year ago, when Maris, a dear friend of mine – and exceptional photographer – introduced it to me. I was going through a very dark period, lots of pain and doubts and he decided to visit and help me. He believed I had to experiment with the wet plate collodion. As soon as he arrived in London, we turned my studio into a magic place. Days with barely eating, working nonstop and having many incredible people visiting. It was a very powerful experience and I will never forget it. It healed me. We had few more sessions after that, in Rome and in Riga. I’m planning another one soon.
Finally, to answer your question, I would say that – photography wise – I would like to do more wet plates, better plates, learn and practice more.
Your pieces have a raw humanity within them. Conceptually, what do you find you would like people to feel or think when they look at your work? What is most important for you to get across to an audience?
I believe in honesty and I guess this is what I would like people to perceive when they look at my work. Art is a sentimental experience made visible. My only intent is to share that experience the way I felt it myself.
Many of your creations transcend time and place; does travel affect your work or is Italy the place where you find a wealth of inspiration?
Traveling has become a very important part of my life: I need movement, I need to get lost. I grew up in Rome where you are constantly surrounded by immense, ancient beauty, the austerity and the decadence, and everything seems to be stuck in time but still hits your eyes with the same intensity. It is of course a never-ending source of inspiration for me. But so is London, and so is every place where I happen to be. Inspiration comes from a inner place rather than a physical one. However, the surroundings mostly affect my ability to focus. Actually this is, for me, more important than anything else.
If you could have anyone in the world take your portrait who would it be and why? Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with that you haven’t yet?
I would say Paolo Roversi, because he is timeless; Bill Henson, because of the twilight. I would love to work with many people. I am lucky enough to know a lot of talented artists so I guess I just want to collaborate with as many of them as possible. To name few artists I admire, I currently would say Romeo Castellucci, Bill Viola, Pierre Huyghe, Nick Cave. I would have also loved to work with Josef Svoboda and Marchesa Luisa Casati.