Interview with Nina Mae Fowler

Nina Fowler was born in London in 1981. She graduated with a first in sculpture from Brighton University in 2003. In 2008, she was nominated for the BP Portrait Prize with her painting of the Royal Ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta, and in 2010 her work was shortlisted for the Jerwood Drawing Prize. More recently she was shortlisted for The Young Masters Prize 2012 as well as being commissioned by Oxford University to depict Professor Richard Dawkins and Hermione Lee. She has worked as archivist and assistant to John Dunbar (founder of Indica Gallery) alongside being part-time Art teacher at South Hampstead High School. Her work is admired and collected by British film, music and fashion luminaries such as John Maybury, Jude Law, Sharleen Spiteri and Caroline Issa. She is included in private and public collections in Europe and the USA and is represented in France by Galerie Dukan. This year saw see her first public exhibition as part of the group show “Starke Frauen” (Strong Women) at Neuer Kunstverein Aschaffenburg.

Hi Nina, today you selected for MoW 3 of your artworks inspired by music. Can you tell MoW why you chose to create about these music artist ? 

I have always been a great fan of Elvis - my dad took me to see Gracelands when I was 16, at which point I did not believe he was dead. "El: Parts I & II' were about Elvis during his 'acting' period - the time when he was controlled by his manager Colonel Parker. This period in his career is often frowned upon because of the poor quality of the films he appeared in. So I wanted to find stills from the films which, taken totally out of context, could be mistaken for much darker imagery than the publicity Colonel Parker sought for Elvis at that point - returning him to his 'Rock n Roll' roots, which he later did himself with the 'Comeback Special'.

Last year I was asked to create a work inspired by the 'Myth of 27' (those artists who died at the age of 27) I chose Brian Jones because of the circumstances surrounding his death and also because I love the music he created with the Stones.  'Sympathy 2' is stitched together from still from Jean Luc Godard's film 'Sympathy For the Devil' which he made during the recording of the track. I wanted to depict Brian's isolation somehow and the chaos surrounding the group at the point. 

Why is music important to you and your art? 

Music is hugely important to me because it inspires me to make work. I get the same feelings from listening to music I love as I do standing in front of an artwork I love. I listen to music as I work and depending on what I am drawing or sculpting the music spurs me along.

If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favourite ? 

Elvis will always win for me. I also like these works because of the sculptural framed I made to denote his adoring fans.

Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique?

 I have been drawing since I can remember.

How did it start? 

I began watching black and white films from an early age and realised they would be perfect for drawing in pencil so I bought pictures of my favourite movie stars and musicians and I began to make copies from them.

How long does it take you to make an artwork ? 

It varies on the intensity of the image I am working from. "Sympathy 2" took 2 weeks, working 8 hours per day.

 MoW spotted your artwork « Sympathy2 » during Mythiq27. How was the experience to take part of this project ? 

It was great to be asked to create an artwork on a subject I was already so interested in. Unfortunately the project Mythiq27 died with its creator Yves Suty, earlier this year. He was a wonderful man and a great collector of Art.

Do you listen to music when you're working? If so what kind? 

I listen to everything - apart from Jazz. I listen to a lot of radio as I enjoy current trends in music and I have a big collection of artists from which I am constantly selecting new playlists and shuffling depending on my mood. Late at night when there is no one around and I am too tired to continue, Bob Dylan always sees me through.

Do you have plans on creating new artworks insipired by music ? 

I'm sure there will be. Music and films are so interlinked that it would be impossible to avoid. There is also a lot of references to dance in my work which again, brings music to the drawings.

What is the song you liked the most lately? The Album ? What was the last gig you went to ?

I love the London Grammar song 'Strong' at the moment.

The album is James Blakes' most recent album "Overgrown"

The last gig I went to was Texas at the 100 Club in London - Sharleen Spiteri is a great friend of mine and collector of my work.

Are you a musician yourself ? 

I used to play the alto saxophone and the piano but soon discovered I was better at drawing.... so now I just listen.


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