Hush | An Interview with Nicole Allen

Show dates: April 6-25, 2019
Artist Reception: Saturday, April 6th, 5-7pm

WALL SPACE GALLERY is excited for the newest collection, Hush, by Ottawa artist, Nicole Allen. Join us in celebrating her jubilant florals and welcoming in spring!

Hush speaks to the unspoken conversations flowers hold as we carry them over the threshold of the home and into our lives. As they fill a room with their bright colours and layered airiness, they silently wait for our attention, for our gaze to fulfill our end of the relationship - and listen. While ephemeral in nature, the flower can contain multitudes, entire speeches intended to convey our potentially never-ending feelings. The thought and gravity we imbue in flowers show their importance to us socially, and this is what gives them their second life. A life after being cut from the stalk, and a lifelong after the last petal wilts.


Ottawa-based painter, Nicole Allen, sat down with assistant curator, Erin Crowell, to discuss her upcoming exhibition. 
 E: What are some things that strike you about this collection that sets it apart from your previous shows? 

 N: With this collection, I’m definitely allowing myself to get looser and more gestural, breaking down the forms to bring the composition to the forefront.  

I’m not shying away from flowers that are half-spent. They take on more personality and that’s an idea I’m embracing as I get older - that we get better with age. 

 I’m also starting to depart from the vase. You’ll see that in Tossed. I’m really digging stems and letting them be free to do their thing. And also doing more edge to edge florals with not too much negative space. You’ll also see a lot more white on whites.  

 E: What are major inspirations for you right now? 

 N: Paper, and the tactility of it.  

 Going back to embracing the gesture: I grew up surrounded by landscape paintings, a lot of Group of Seven, but my father, who is an artist, approached it more gesturally and very loose. He was very encouraging to just let go. That and Joan Mitchell, her brushwork and her use of colour. Lately, that’s really what I respond to. You still really recognize her for what she did, or you can make it what you want. She has a very wide scope of influence.  

 E: What are some inspirations that are fairly consistent throughout your work? 

 N: I’ve always responded to Japanese woodblock prints. They have a real simplicity of form and gentle layering that I’ve engaged with. Everything connects to each other. It’s the pathways - or the collective - that is in the work and in all of us, the environment, that is key. We are the sum of our parts. It’s not just about any one “flower”. [Woodblock prints] are also a flattening of form that I am enjoying bringing this through with my work on paper series. 

 My father was a beautiful gardener. A lot of these flowers are those my father regularly planted in his garden. He also had Monet’s poppies, which were a favourite. I love lupins, those are more linear. We also have a good garden at home, though it’s always a work in process. What I paint are like the gardens of my dreams. I’m not much into the tropical flowers. The colours are too bright for me. I like the softer colours more. I’m a green person, I really respond to those.  

 I like the aesthetic of English gardens. A lot of our gardens tend to be a bit too processed. I like to get my hands-on old copies of British Home & Garden or watching English gardening programs. They really let the gardens breathe but have focus.  

My husband, Jeff, is always an inspiration. There’s a piece in this show dedicated to him. When my children were younger, I had to confront myself and say, “Why aren’t I blissed out with happiness right now? What’s missing? “. I knew I needed to be painting more. I also went back to school. I’m doing this strictly because I want to and I love it.  


 E: Can you tell us more about the process? Do you largely work from bouquets, photos, or memory? 

N: A lot of my work is composites of several photos I’ve taken from gardens and flower shops. It’s great to work from flowers in front of me but I pull from my whole life. It comes from all over.  

E: It’s been so great to hear so much about what goes into the work and makes your florals come alive. What are the goals you’re setting for your work ahead?  

N: I want to surprise myself. I want to stay challenged. I find if I’m tired with my subject matter then my viewer feels that. If I’m energized instead that comes through. I think all artists are trying to stay true to that freshness, that inspiration. But it’s difficult.  

 I’d also like to continue to develop my landscapes to have a continuity with the floral collections. And to go bigger!