Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Nicola Dale

Webster’s definition of ideology is: “A system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.” Artist Nicola Dale’s sculptures, performances, and installations are interpretations of this definition of ideology—one of many subjects that Dale explores in her work.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology VI, 2015; durational performance. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology VI, 2015; durational performance. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Dale often works on one subject or idea for an extended period, in distinctive bodies that incorporate various forms and approaches. Her ongoing series Models for Ideology is one such examination. Model for Ideology VI (2015) was a durational performance in which the artist—clad in black pants, shirt, and ballet socks—stood for an extended period with long, thin wooden dowels stuck under her foot, chin, arms, and hips, simultaneously forcing her into and supporting her in a contrapposto stance. The Models for Ideology create a series of support systems that constrain movement and make it precarious; ideologies work in the same way by creating a set of principles and expectations in which to operate but also struggle to extend beyond, systems which are durable and somehow always in flux.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology I, 2014; wood, foam board, paper; 98 ½ x 12 x 12 inches. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology I, 2014; wood, foam board, paper; 98 ½ x 12 x 12 in. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Dale’s sculptures, such as Model for Ideology I (2014), embody this play between sturdiness and instability. Made of wood, foam board, and paper, Model for Ideology I also presents like a contemporary architectural model for a steel and glass tower of Babel, the ultimate conflation of ideologies expressed in a profusion of languages, which, when brought to bear upon one another all at once, creates utter meaninglessness.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology III, 2014; wood, leatherette, waxed thread, pencils; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Nicola Dale. Model for Ideology III, 2014; wood, leatherette, waxed thread, pencils; dimensions variable. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Dale describes Model for Ideology I and Model for Ideology III as addressing “the ebb and flow of ideologies as they encircle and overlap us. Models I–III take the traditional sizes of books as their starting point and explore the slow demise of a certain kind of knowledge.” From one book-shaped red rectangle to the next, like dominoes of increasing scale, Model for Ideology III is a series of dowels that seem to push apart and connect to each other at various angles that imply the transfer of ideas or codes—signs from one generation to the next; there are subtle variations as it shifts and changes over time.

Nicola Dale. Not So Firm As Faded Ink Record Part II, 2014; pencil stubs, reconstituted pencil shavings; 7 x 1/3 x 1/3 inches each. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Nicola Dale. Not So Firm As Faded Ink Record Part II, 2014; pencil stubs, reconstituted pencil shavings; 7 x 1/3 x 1/3 in each. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Dale’s series Not So Firm As Faded Ink (2014) addresses similar ideas of language and the transmission of information. After two residencies—in Shanghai, China, and Yorkshire, England—Dale started to explore the Chinese proverb, “The best memory is not so firm as faded ink.” In her sculpture Not So Firm as Faded Ink Record Part II (2014), Dale constructed thirteen tree-like miniature totems from shaved pencils, recombining the ends and the shavings into delicately organic forms that reach upward. The vertical shapes are assembled in a ring as if to suggest a meeting place or a transfer of ideas. At play also is the nature of the material, which acts as a symbol for language and the transfer of ideas and knowledge over time.

Nicola Dale. Not So Firm As Faded Ink Kexy, 2014; paper, wooden lectern; 14 ½ x 12 x 10 ¼ inches. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Nicola Dale. Not So Firm As Faded Ink Kexy, 2014; paper, wooden lectern; 14 ½ x 12 x 10 ¼ in. Courtesy of Mark Devereux Projects.

Not So Firm As Faded Ink Kexy (2014) takes the form of a wooden lectern—the platform at which lectures are transmitted or given—and turns it into an abstract and fertile ground for the growth of ideas. This work commits to the transference of ideas as a permanent and permeable condition in which time is frozen and interrogated, both opened and closed by the act of speaking or writing.

Whether through installation, sculpture, or performance, Nicola Dale entreats her viewer to think more deeply about the nature and construction of language, ideas, history, and the forms these tropes might take. Her practice is consistent and focused, yet mindfully elliptical.

Nicola Dale lives and works in Manchester, England. She earned an MA in Visual Culture from MIRIAD in Manchester, England, and a BA in Interactive Arts from Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group presentations including: London, UK; Manchester, UK; Shanghai, CN; Zürich, CH; Buenos Aires, AR; and Alameda, California. Dale has participated in residencies at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK; Shanghai College of Fine Arts, CN; and Wolstenholme Projects, Liverpool, UK.

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