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Interview with the artist Jacqueline Nicholls

As I already mentioned in my previous post, at the beginning of 2019 we advertised a commission for an artist to collaborate with the 50 Jewish Objects project. The proposals were engaging and making a decision was extremely challenging given the high level of creativity and interest of all the artists. But after long consideration, the panel decided to appoint artist Jacqueline Nicholls for this year’s commission.

Jacqueline is a London-based artist who has exhibited in solo exhibitions and in group shows in Europe, the USA and Israel. From the beginning of May she has started meeting, observing and studying the objects currently held at the John Rylands Library. We have had long discussions on the artefacts and on my research. She will be working on her artistic piece until the end of June, taking inspiration from the wonderful Hebraica collections of the Library. On the 29thof May she will also be delivering in Manchester a fascinating workshop on books: see the details here.

What is your background? Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

I initially trained as an architect, and then medical illustration, but it was on a printmaking course that I got interested in fine art and its possibilities to explore and express ideas. I use my art to explore my heritage, working with traditional Jewish ideas in untraditional ways. 

What work do you most enjoy doing? And do you have a dream project?

I love drawing, and working with my hands with different materials, pushing their limits and seeing what happens. My work tends to be small, with meticulous crafted details, so I would love to be able to fill a large space installation. 

Do you have a favourite artist? And which artist of the past would you most like to meet?

I don’t have a favourite artist. At the moment I’ve been looking a lot at Vija Celmins and Bracha Ettinger’s work. They both use drawing in very interesting ways, although very different from each other. I would have loved to have met Louise Bourgeois, her work and her writing is so thoughtful about women’s roles in society. 

What are your first impressions on the 50 Jewish Objects project?

I am so distracted by the objects! I came into this project with an idea of what I wanted to look at and think about, but the collection is so interesting and the stories are so fascinating that I now just want to see and learn about everything. The 50 Jewish Objects makes me consider the Jewish texts not just for their content, but their materiality and legacy. How these texts came to be preserved and become our core texts. 

Can you tell us about the process of making your work? And will this be influenced by the collaboration with the research carried out on the objects?

I usually work with traditional Jewish texts: my current project is Draw Yomi, drawing the Talmud, page a day, following the traditional Daf Yomi cycle. This involves learning the text and then using drawing to engage and reflect. With this project, I have been taking notes and sketches, and am now beginning to process this thinking with drawings and experimenting with materials in my studio, and discovering what will emerge. 

If you want to know more about her creations take a look at her website or follow her discoveries on #50jewishobjects on instagram.

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