An Interview with Nicole Coson
London-based Filipino artist Nicole Coson describes her works as revolving around the “analogy of the ghost, an enigma, or a loose and ever changing form that cannot be grasped yet it invades our tactile and physical world.” Given that Coson largely works using layered monotype processes, the allegory of the “ghost” or ungraspable impression seems particularly apt.
Currently undertaking her MFA in Painting at the Royal College of Art, Coson harnesses the process of printmaking for visual purposes that are both painterly, monumental and fluctuate beautifully between the graphic and the tactile.
When did you start printing?
I started utilizing printmaking techniques at my BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins. I was lucky enough to be one of the last students to spend days in the printmaking studio at the Historic Byam Shaw campus before they took it all down. It was easy to be lured by the unique energy of the place, the sense of community, the way everyone was eagerly sharing the secrets to their techniques with each other and it didn't hurt that the music was also great.
I was drawn to the fact that printmaking was different from the sometimes alienating solitude of my painting practice. Whilst I was sharing the studio space with other artists, we stuck mostly to own little "territory" or designated wall space with little movement and only the occasional exchange of words. In the printmaking workshop, it was an electrifying, almost chaotic dance between stations and presses where interaction was natural and necessary and I in turn learnt so much about the people there as well as the printmaking processes that became a large part of my current practice. It was here that I developed, alongside the technicians, a way to to make monotypes on heavy fabrics with the same richness and clarity as a print on paper. Afterwards, we would have movies projected onto screens, and end long printing days with beers on the fire escape with our sleeves and wrists blackened with ink.
How do you see your print background informing your more expanded practice?
Sometimes printmaking can be seen as a technique attached to the past. But I believe that in a world where we are constantly being bombarded by images, printmaking can come as the most effective response to our contemporary lives. I have always experienced hesitance when holding a paint brush when faced with a blank canvas. I've found that having a machine or etching press as an active "third party" in my mark making, was the tool I had been searching for. There's a different type of tension in this mechanical way of making, as well as meditative quality that I really appreciate and with which my work really thrives on.
I do not see printmaking as strict category or medium, I see it as a means that allows me to negotiate my ideas in a tactical/strategic manner with instances where sheer chance is largely involved. I use a really old etching press to make my large monotypes named "Big Bertha" (named by its previous owner after a German howitzer), the fact she came with her own name and the way she's temperamental is like working with a child but she is integral to my practice. Each pass through the etching press to me captures a time stamp, an instance never to occur again. One the canvas is pulled away from the plate where the ink once was, there is a satisfying sense of completion and as well as loss which I find very beautiful.
Who would you love to collaborate with?
Honestly, I would love to collaborate with any of the other women in this interview series.
Where are some of your favorite spaces in London/Manila for contemporary art or design?
A place I never miss every time I visit Manila is The Alley at Karrivin. It's a warehouse complex that has everything you need. The Alley is home to interesting galleries and project spaces such as Drawing Room, Bellas Artes Outpost, Art Informal and 1335 Mabini, my favorite restaurant, Toyo Eatery and their bakery Panederya Toyo, a tiny food stall serving up huge fried chicken sandwiches called Side Chick and an even tinier stall called Type A that sells beautiful cold brew coffee to cool you down and wake you up. I spend entire days there looking at art, sipping coffee and having a mind-blowing meal to finish the day off.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished my first solo show in Paris at a new gallery space called Gallerie Untilthen which was comprised of several large scale monotypes on canvas. Currently, I'm in the first year of my MFA in Painting at the Royal College of Art here in the UK. Making works within the parameters of such an important institution has been a huge adjustment in terms of means of making as well as thinking but I felt and still feel it has been a necessary move in my journey as a young artist.