Nicholas at the John Moores 2016 exhibition.
What inspires our John Moores Painting Prize artists? Nicholas Middleton is an artist who has been selected five times for the John Moores over the past 12 years - this year his painting 'Figures in an Arch' has been chosen for the exhibition.
We caught up with him to find out more about how he works, ahead of his 'Talk Tuesday' event happening at the Walker Art Gallery on Tuesday 2 August.
The John Moores Painting Prize has a rich tradition of reflecting the practice of painting in the country over a number of decades. Just being a selected artist feels like an engagement with - and contribution to - that tradition (even if, as an individual artist, it’s a very small contribution). It’s also a fixture in the art calendar and takes place in a gallery with a really good permanent collection too, so to be hanging on the wall of the Walker is also a privilege. And, of course, it’s also great to be in one of the partner exhibitions of the Liverpool Biennial.
Having been selected a number of times before, each time the entry process opens again, I never feel any kind of certainty in having my work chosen. There's always a different panel of judges each time with a very different set of perspectives on painting. Previously I made work specifically to enter the John Moores, but I haven’t done so for the last couple of occasions, so perhaps this reflects that uncertainty.
'Figures in an Arch' by Nicholas Middleton
At its simplest, it’s the world around me that’s part of my everyday experience. Regarding my working methods, it's how photographs can make that world into pictures - which can then be made again as paintings.
Personally, I find it difficult to have a definitive answer: it’s a network of reasons, some of which I am only half aware. In part, it’s to have a dialogue with the history of painting, which has also become bound up with my own personal history of making work for more than twenty years.
"I also find the process of painting itself transformative of whatever source material is invoked, in a way that no other approach is, when a congruence of hand, eye, paint and surface happens."
Although I hope that the choices I’ve made that lie behind the work will in some way suggest a response, I would never want to be prescriptive about how a viewer should react to anything I make: meaning exists in the compact or relationship between the object and the beholder.