Berlin art label – Nick Jeffrey

The painter inspired by the very material of the German capital

Arts+Culture Q+A
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Painter Nick Jeffrey keeps ending up back in Europe's artist enclave.  His original stint was bissected by  2 year MA at the Royal College of Art where he studied painting and landed himself on the roster of Peckham and Bond Street's Hannah Barry Gallery. Back with a bang, he works out of a typical dilapidated Berlin studio where he finds the time and space to develop his practice.  Don't be fooled by the 'painter' label, Jeffrey's work and character is on the frenetic end of the spectrum, despite his calm and quiet stripped back textured [paintings that almost melt back into canvas.  His physical, material and occasionally incidental style of painting is paired alongside a past history of putting on events such as this Summer's 'Cumbia Meltdown' and collaborating with musicians like Stan from Hounds of Hate on performances and exhibitions; an attitude that will stand an artist in good stead in the German party capital. 

Why did you choose to be an artist in Berlin? 
Nick Jeffrey: Originally in 2007-8 things weren't going so well in London, I has a small bad studio in New Cross, things were slowing down, and then a close friend invited me over to stay for a few weeks.  After a while as possibilities opened up again, and the lifestyle is generally healthy and it's easier to get by, I decided to stay more permanently...so 2 weeks turned into 2 years!   This was actually a really exciting time in the city when really large spaces were still affordable and 3 of us shared a really large space in Wedding.  One funny memory is that there was fashion event below where we were living/working while the 2 of us were trying to paint, so we decided to go and managed to get in posing as photographers.  Lady Gaga in her really early days i guess, was performing  and a few people were like 'booooooo, who the hell is this?!', but i guess she showed us!   More recently I decided to move back after finishing at the Royal College of Art in london in 2011. 

What's good about working as an artist in the city?
Nick Jeffrey: Personally, I'm very much into the time and pace of the city and how this can go back into the work. It's hard to describe, it moves like time in a Tarkovsky film, really subtly and gradual and is a lot more expansive.  You can get some sort of grip on it where as in other cities it's out of your control. It's similar to time in nature, although it is a city. I think people who have lived here for a bit will understand that. Although if you want to do something or get something done quickly this could be a problem!

Where's the best place to eat / drink / party / see a show?
Nick Jeffrey: A quick affordable bite at Com Viet on Münzstrasse and there are a few good places to drink around my local area on Schönhauser Allee, but also a few bad ones so be careful!  It's too cold to party - Hibernation time! Although there is way more to explore then just Watergate, Berghain etc.  There are new places opening up all the time, especially along the river since Bar 25 closed.  These galleries are consistent with their shows; Neu gallery, Peres Projects, VW gallery, and i've been meaning to venture out to Club Midnight

How has the city inspired and changed your work?
Nick Jeffrey: The materiality of the city is really interesting, the surfaces are rough, rugged, layered, scrawled, drawn, peeled washed sandy.  If you walk or cycle in the city you will always come across something good which helps trigger ideas, be that a crumbling building, an abandoned lot, a good bar, or a cash machine which has been torn open with several people living around it! I wouldn't say the city has much impact on my work directly, but it enables the space for it to open up, although Berlin is in a state of change at the moment, for better or worse.    

What's the best thing you've done in Berlin?
Nick Jeffrey: The forests/lake in the summer are great.  I came across a wild boar family once and hung out with them which was interesting! They didn't seem to be to afraid of people......

What's the best show you've been?
Nick Jeffrey: The Berlin Biennale is always exciting - even when it's bad! It gets you out into the city during the summer heat and exploring again. New places are always discovered and getting used as well. The 2006 biennale was amazing.  

Why stay?
Nick Jeffrey: It's home at the moment, although somewhere warm, overgrown, and tropical is on the horizon.  It will take some time to get there!.....

This is a series of pieces inspired by Beck's Art Label and their recent activities in Berlin

 

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