Nikolai’s wall-based work over the last few years in particular stands in an evolving dialogue with painting and drawing through diverting the use of photographic materials away from producing a mechanical image and toward mark-making and gesture. These works are from a series called Arcadia, first shown at Photo London in May 2019, simply suspended without frames on the wall. We propose framing in an acrylic box, which can be arranged for you, to retain the sculptural feel for the work.
In ‘Arcadia’, Nikolai reimagines mountainous terrains as quasi-architectural geometric compositions. Modernist architecture, with its steel-frame and cantilevered structures, completely changed the relationship between the interior and the outside, literally opening up new vistas onto nature. Hulking Brutalist forms, as Jonathan Meades argues in his documentary ‘Bunkers, brutalism and bloody-mindedness: Concrete poetry’, went one step further by seeking to replace nature as the source of the sublime.
Starting with snaps of mountain ranges, Nikolai abstracts them through repetitive redrawing, rendering the drawings as silver gelatin prints and then working over them. Although he still employs the basic binaries of exposure, gone are the soft shapes seen in his previous acclaimed series ‘Thresholds’. Instead, stark staccatos of angular black and white areas abut bands of blue, where the movement of the hand is allowed to become visible. The title ‘Arcadia’ alludes to how both the landscape and architecture are instrumentalised in the name of idealised visions.