In the spirit of Nell Gifford’s courageous character and exuberant attitude to life, the show will go on. A collection of over 70 works completed over one year by the Giffords Circus co-founder and creative genius will be shown in London in February 2020.
Nell’s motto was ‘practice every day’, essential to successful circus performances and also pertinent to her art. She said ‘if I don’t create something every day, I feel panicky.’
Nell followed in the footsteps of the Impressionists: the dynamism and drama of the 19th century circus was captured by painters such as Seurat, Degas, Toulouse Lautrec, and Picasso during the Golden Age of the fashionable and inventive French circus. The Golden Age created by Nell’s circus in 21st century Britain is expressed with the boldness of a creative innovator; one that knew and loved her subject.
Nell’s raw talent sings through the works, she had a natural ease with ink and watercolour. There is a magnetic immediacy to Nell’s watercolours of circus scenes; explosions of paint, scattered spots and specks and glowing luminous pools of coloured light immerse her nimbly depicted horses and performers. It is as though the viewer were watching a live performance.
Ink drawings of balletic stills of acrobats on horses pay homage to their balance and nerve, and silent thoughtful scenes of a figure on a horse conjure up the pre performance steadying of nerves.
Nell wrote about her feelings on many of the works, exposing her emotional ties to the circus which has sustained her throughout the challenges of her third and fourth cycles of chemotherapy. The direct and moving “Be brave” and “from this day forward we face the light” express her resilience.
A painting with an excerpt from Dante’s Divine Comedy, and another with the title of St Augustine’s Theory of Knowledge ‘The Light of the Mind’ reflects Nell’s literary upbringing and her own love of literature which she studied at Oxford.
Joe Avery, an artist and illustrator who worked with Damien Hirst for nearly nine years, mentored Nell, encouraging her to experiment with ink, watercolour and water itself, resulting in variety of figurative and abstract mark making. Amanda Lay, an art consultant and family friend, organised Nell’s first informal show in a tent at the circus in the summer of 2018 after seeing her potential. It was a sell-out.
The exhibition ‘Into a Land of Pure Magic’ opens on 20th February at Olympia Auctions 2020. The online auction will open for bids on 10th February 2020 and closes a few days after the end of the exhibition. Tickets for a charity evening with Matthew Parris and Emma Bridgewater for Maggies Cheltenham will be on our website at www.OlympiaAuctions.com/events.
Olympia Auctions, 25 Blythe Road, London W14 0PD, tel: 020 7806 5541