The Chic Edit: Where did your initial venture as an artist begin?
Elliott Nimmo: When I was a toddler, Dad gave me a bunch of pens and a whole roll of butcher’s paper and I sat and drew under his desk while he worked. The best kind of pacifier!
CE: Judging by your work and admissions on Instagram, you’ve gone through a lot of artistic phases. How would you describe your aesthetic now?
EN: I think it’s healthy as an artist to experiment heaps with your style. I’ve gone through Picasso, Chagall, Brett Whiteley, David Hockney, Cecily Brown…the list goes on. But eventually, you find your own aesthetics, your own sensibilities, and what really interests you. I suppose my work now is something like Post-Pop: it’s working in the field of Warhol, but in the stylistic realm of Alex Katz or David Salle.
CE: Do you feel that you’ve “come into your own” as an artist yet, or are you still developing your own distinct style?
EN: I don’t think I’ll ever think I’ve “come into my own” as such. I’m pretty restless when it comes to painting and I’ll be over the painting I’m working on three-quarters of the way through and want to start something new. But style-wise, yeah, now I think I’ve settled—for the moment.
CE: You met your artistic idol, David Boyd, a man who has himself met Picasso. How surreal was that?
EN: That was very, very cool. I remember distinctly, we were on the back porch and David asked me who my favourite artists were and he just casually said he’d met Picasso in the South of France when he was in his early twenties. He (David) just bowled into the shop and said hello to him, much to the shock of his mates. My jaw dropped. I like to think that, by extension, I’ve met Picasso!
CE: Your work focuses a lot on consumerism and conformity, in a way that’s almost Bret Easton Ellis-like, thematically. Similarly, is there a congruous message you’re trying to express?
EN: How’s that for a reference! And how good is Bret Easton Ellis?! For me, the action is in the surface of the paint: how the paint moves, how it shines, how colours meet and form. I like painting consumerist things as subject matter because they’re aesthetically intriguing and functionally useless (we don’t need them) but I wouldn’t say I’m trying to express a message. I was listening to a podcast last night about Roland Barthes, and I remember thinking, “Yes, it’s all signs, all mediated reality!” Equally, if the viewer reads something into it that I’ve not considered, that’s just as valid.
CE: You use fruit imagery in unexpected ways throughout your work: what do these represent to you?
EN: Fruit is very sexual: you cut any fruit in half and you’ll get a vagina haha. Historically, fruit has been used as a symbol for excess and sex and all that, but I just love painting it. The colours, the forms: a cut peach can look sexual and it can look like a bullet hole. It’s visceral.
CE: You’ve previously completed a residency in Germany: do you find your work evolves according to the location in which it’s created?
EN: Hmm, yes definitely. I made a bunch of really different work while I was over there. It was a bit more out-there, a bit riskier relatively. Germany was great because there was just such a rich culture to draw on.
CE: What is your creative process? Do you plan meticulously or act instinctually, put on certain music or work in silence, etc.?
EN: This is a trade secret! No, nothing is left to chance in my process. It is meticulously planned, which gives me the freedom to enjoy the painting process because I know exactly when it’s finished.
This is much more liberating to me than when I was an abstract painter and I agonized over when the work was finished. Ideally, I do life admin until about 10:30, whack on Spotify (Bowie and Roisin Murphy are my go-to’s at the moment) and just work until about lunchtime. Then I’ll work until about 4.
CE: How does your work as an artist affect your experience as a model?
EN: I would say my experience as a model would affect my art more than vice versa. People always say that the model stands there and does nothing but all the shoots I’ve done have been collaborative and creatively rewarding. It’s a symbiotic process, for sure.
CE: What do you wish to create that you’ve yet to do? What is your latest ambition?
EN: God, have you got all day? I want to make some really big work—like 200cm x 180cm—and do some really big faces. Scale is such a luxury, especially with inner-city studios being so small. I’m doing some small-scale fashion portraits at the moment, which are fun, but it can’t match the expansiveness of a 6ft canvas.
Follow Elliott Nimmo on Instagram.