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In the workplace of

Elliott Nimmo

A multi-talented person who speaks multiple languages and is a great painter, born in the county of New South Wales, Australia, but living in London at the moment. Today we speak to Elliott Nimmo!

Journey

Having grown up on the beach and as an only child, I had to make my own entertainment. I did not have any brothers or sisters that would entertain me. My first interaction with “creating art” was when I was a kid. I used to pause my Disney Cartoon videos on TV and draw them for hours and hours, where I had a healthy obsession with the Villains. The Villians were the ones that always broke the rules. They did their own things, and they had their own motivations. Also, they were the one with the best powers. I always wished I was a sorcerer as a kid.

It kind of never was a choice. In the sense that, now that I look back on it, of course, I could only ever be a painter. When I was younger, I was a budding actor, but I had to make a choice: either to go drama school or art school, and it was straightforward because I could not live without art. Painting for me is not a hobby; it is not a job; it is not an obligation; it just is. I spend every waking moment thinking about it. It is a kind of religion for me, so I decided to go to the National Art School. I did my Honours and Masters there. NAS is renowned for its art history course – we learnt as far back as 6000BCE. It was so diverse. We learnt about architecture, Roman engineering, culture; they take a very holistic approach. I loved it.

Over the years, I have done many portrait commissions for private and corporate collections. Most recently, I have just been enjoying doing a lot of work since I have not been able to make much over the last few years (life does get in the way, doesn’t it). Sometimes the stresses, obligations and unpredictable parts of our life take up all the time in the world, and there is no time for painting.

During the years I have created so many works, but the one that I am most proud of is the painting I made of my best friends. It was recognised in an exhibition in Australia–the Archibald Prize’s Salon des Réfusés. It was such a joy to go to the opening with her and see her in front of the painting. I got a mention by a big-time critic in the national paper, that was a thrill.

Styles, technique and materials

I was a dedicated representational painter for the last ten years. I painted consumer imagery, inspired by magazines and the cool stares found in ad campaigns. This all changed 4 months ago when I radically changed everything and returned to an abstract expressionist way of working. The work is so new none of it is on my website.

My new way of working express the memory of a feeling. My paintings are expressions of points in time from my life, extremely subjective and personal. But if someone sees something completely different in work, then that is great too. I paint for myself first, then for my peers, and then for the audience.

I believe completely in painting. I paint when I am stressed or upset; it never is a trial; it is just a beautiful thing I am lucky to have found.

When I experience such feelings, I put an unstretched canvas on the floor. I throw paint around and let it sit and then I ruminate, sometimes for weeks, and then I return to it and attack it again until it is right. I want to paint and use such different material before my radical shift. I have nearly exclusively used oil and turps for the last ten years, but part of this recent radical shift in practice has led me to use acrylics, which I love for their immediacy.

For me right now, acrylics are ideal because they are non-toxic, do not smell, and the clean-up is minimal. They also dry immediately, so it is almost like digital photography versus film – you get to see the result straight away. They have a shinier quality to the matte-ness of oil, which I like too.

For the way I work, I have to be extremely decisive with what brushstroke goes where: the paintings look spontaneous and slapdash, but they are really assiduously considered. Also, which can be a bit tricky, acrylics tend to dry 50% darker. So I have to consider that as well.

In the last four months, my style has completely shifted to a kind of abstract expressionism, but to say it is just that would be a little reductive. I think the work is representational, because there is a figure/ground relationship, and the way I handle the paint expresses the time and emotion of that particular moment I experienced.

Beliefs and lifestyle

Painting, beautiful clothes, great food and wonderful people around me give satisfaction. During the weeks, my regular day would be: I get up, get a coffee, check my emails. I am also an art director, so I am often into a meeting. I will finish up in the evening and pick up my brush.

After work or in moments of relaxation, I love to have a negroni. They are my favourite thing to drink; I love the bitterness. I enjoy long walks in the walk. I sued to be an avid Bikram Yogi, but since I moved to London (and covid) that is become a distant memory.

During the weekends, I love to get a coffee, then a chocolate almond croissant, and then going and sitting in the park and reading my book. At the moment I am reading “ninth house” by Leigh Bardugo, a modern fantasy novel. I have just finished her YA books “six of crows” and “crooked kingdom” – she is such a good writer! I am also reading very slowly “the love of painting”, a history and contextualisation of painting.

I love languages. I learnt French at school, and I taught myself Italian at the same time. I also love anything to do with English words; they are so numerous and expressive. I am currently attempting Japanese again.

My parents taught me always to tell the truth. So I do, mostly with elegance, but as my friends will attest, I can be, well, a little too truthful at times.

Future

Thinking about the future and the impact I want to make, I believe that “impact” is such a grandiose word, I do not know if I could make an impact as such. However, I would love to contribute to the dialogue of contemporary painting. I want the work to have longevity and want the work to be seen by many people. It is my dream that people would be engaged with my view of the world.

As a kid living in a hot and humid climate, I dreamt of the cold and the rain and the dark. So I am living my dream by being in London. I feel so lucky to be able to be here, especially in these uncertain times. For example, last week, I went to a Howard Hodgkin show in Mayfair – only 40mins on the tube. I do not think there is a single Hodgkin painting in Australia, let alone 20-odd paintings at such short distance. I pinch myself every day.

I really hope I can produce a body of work that is resolved and that people want to see up close, and want to know all about. I am so excited to show this new work and to have it out there.

I call myself a painter because it is a skill, it is artisanal, and I think that the title “artist” is bestowed on you by your peers, gallerists and critics. I guess my dream is to be known as an artist and to be respected for the contribution I make, and for the knowledge I can impart to others.

Thinking about goals, however, I have so many, so I will keep it brief on that. My relatively short term goal is to build a meaningful relationship with a gallery and show my work there, so I am focussed on achieving that and move on from there!

Interested about what Elliott is up to? Feel free to check out his Instagram or his website!

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Fiona Chadler