Continuing our artist in residence series, we commissioned Nicholas Law to create a conceptual work based on the theme of Reconnecting, to grace our main entrance this autumn. Here, he describes his creative process and shares his sources of inspiration with us. Visit The Royal Exchange this September and October to see the large format installation in situ.
HOW HAVE YOU INTERPRETED THE BRIEF FOR THE ARTWORK YOU’VE CREATED FOR THE ROYAL EXCHANGE?
The brief I received was to create a piece to surround the main entrance to The Royal Exchange building, based on the theme of ‘Reconnecting’. I liked this brief because I think broad and simple concepts can be a catalyst to large and sometimes unexpected outcomes. I started to think about the word Reconnect and landed on interlocking, interlinking, abstract forms as the visual direction for the piece.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE?
New media influenced by traditional graphic art; ethereal; colourful (most of the time).
AND HOW IS IT EXPRESSED IN THE ARTWORK YOU’VE CREATED FOR THE ROYAL EXCHANGE?
These descriptors are expressed by focusing on really basic elements of composition and design: an emphasis on bold, simple shapes, and a colour palette and overall texture that is influenced by older print media.
WHAT PROCESS DID YOU GO THROUGH TO CONCEIVE AND CREATE THIS PARTICULAR PIECE OF WORK?
I actually like to write a lot, before I start on a project. I ask myself a series of questions, such as “How complex should this be?” and “What colours would be appropriate?” Once I feel like I have a good idea of my goals, I then make basic sketches on paper, which are then finalised on my computer. I like simple compositions, especially if they will be produced at a large size. The more I can do with less, the better. For something like this, leaning into colour and composition is more important than anything else, to me.
WHERE DO YOU TURN FOR INSPIRATION?
Books, music, films, and – if I’m being specific to graphic design – the work of post-WW2 Japanese graphic design truly changed my life permanently. People like Koichi Sato, Mitsuo Katsui, Eiko Ishioka, Kazumasa Nagai, Ikko Tanaka… the list goes on and on.
Broad and simple concepts can be a catalyst to large and sometimes unexpected outcomes
HOW IMPORTANT IS CONNECTION TO YOU?
Very important. I think, as humans, our brains are pretty much wired to seek connection from other people. Through family, friends, and all of the other people we cross paths with, in our life.
HOW HAVE YOU STAYED CONNECTED TO YOUR CREATIVITY DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Constant experimentation. Addressing every creative endeavour with the mindset of a young enthusiastic student. Taking inspiration from everything I experience in life – perhaps most importantly, from things outside the narrow sphere of graphic art. I have been very lucky that the large majority of my work can be done remotely from home (like this project was). Interestingly, my favourite collaborations I’ve had the pleasure to be involved with have happened during this time – some of them in fields I had no previous professional experience in – and they have been secured because of constantly experimenting with new ideas and being open to move in multiple directions at once as a person. I’ve been trying to record more music lately too, when I have the time. Never stop learning things, even when you’re stuck inside.
DO YOU HAVE ANY HABITS OR RITUALS THAT HELP YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
Not really. I guess just trying to stay healthy and taking in new pieces of culture. I ride my bike a lot, going outside to decompress would probably be my pro tip.
WHAT ELEMENTS OF LIFE DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED, OR WANT, TO RECONNECT WITH AT THE MOMENT?
I’d like to have more of a personal connection to the place I grew up – right outside of Buffalo, NY. I used to be slightly embarrassed that I wasn’t from a city like NY, LA, London, Berlin or Amsterdam. I deeply regret thinking this way earlier in my creative life, because that part of me from a small town – and how it influenced my growth and development as a person – is so much more interesting, unique, special, and specific to who I am now. Don’t turn away from your roots if there are things you are grateful for from those places. I’ve moved around quite a bit in my life, which I think is so important, but I also think it helps to highlight how unique specific parts of the world can be and what is great about each of them in their own way.
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU HOPE THE ARTWORK YOU’VE CREATED FOR THE ROYAL EXCHANGE WILL HAVE ON THE PEOPLE WHO SEE IT?
I hope it gives people a sense of warmth, and makes people think about the things they would like to reconnect with. It could be a person, a place, a past hobby… I think it’s so healthy to create stronger bonds with the things that give us purpose and make us happy. We are so often pulled away from the things that mean the most to us. Sometimes it’s best to give pause, be present, and try to identify these things of value in our lives; and think about whether we could manifest them better in the future.
Nicholas Law is an artist and designer from Buffalo, New York. His mesmerising forms and beautiful colour palettes play with perspective and dimension to create ultra-modern visuals, inspired by traditional graphic art
Visit The Royal Exchange this autumn to see Nicholas Law’s conceptual artwork installed at our main entrance. Read more about our Reconnect campaign here and let us know how you are reconnecting with the world on Instagram @theroyalexchange and Twitter @rexshopper #Reconnect