What Lies Beneath: Busy Corner by Jock Nichol
Busy Corner by Jock Nichol, Oil on canvas, courtesy of the artist
'Some kids kick a ball around all day" but for Jock Nichol "it was paper, pencils, pens and paint". Art College in Edinburgh was a "logical" step and there he found himself "doing paintings loosely based on tents and mountain shelter". Home was a village in the Cheviot Hills - "where I grew up looks like Wicklow or the Comeragh Mountains" - and though he enjoyed the city he felt the need "to disappear into the wilds from time to time".
The wilds of Ireland have now replaced the wilds of Scotland. He'd got on well with the many Irish people whom he'd met in Scotland, and a Rathdowney native suggested that he try the wild Midlands way. And having gone there for a wedding and having felt at home in 1992, he and his wife moved to County Laois.
A plein air painter, "I like to paint places I know well. Some places stick in your mind for no obvious reason. I guess I let the place choose me." He doesn't search for a wow-factor spot but Jock Nichol's paintings of back roads less-travelled, woods, the sky, reveal a fine sensitive eye for the beauty you might pass by. The words busy corner suggest noise, congestion, traffic lights but Nichol's life-filled Busy Corner with its humorous and ironic title reminds us that there's a lot going on at this turn in the road. The old road with its rough surface cuts down through a wild, untouched hillside, and the grass, plants and trees on either side glow green, purple, orange. That particular corner is in Glenafelly in the Slieve Blooms but for Nichol "mood is more important than location. We assume the landscape to be peaceful but it is constantly moving - wind, light, fauna and flora vying for space". Nichol hopes the viewer "finds the image calming yet senses the hidden drama". The Midlands, he's made his own. And other parts of Ireland? "Sometimes I try to paint different places but I feel like a visitor or interloper, the exception being Cill Rialaig in Kerry which is a very special place." Happy to spend days alone, he'll head away for a week with tent and rations. "Many people yearn for the wilds for peace and challenge. I don't understand why some don't unplug their earphones and listen." Listen. Can you hear the call of the wild?
Sunday Indo Living