Nicola Moss

Name: Nicola Moss




The area where you live… Gold Coast

Are you currently represented by a gallery?

Yes, I am represented by Salt Contemporary Art in Queenscliff, Victoria; Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond, Melbourne and Woollahra, Sydney. I also currently show works with Costello-Childs Gallery in Phoenix, Arizona, United States.

How long have you been making art?

Since I was quite young. I’ve had a studio space for making art since I moved to Sydney in 1989.


What are you currently working on?

I’m currently completing works for my upcoming solo exhibition ‘Diamonds in my eyes’ which will be on show at Salt Contemporary Art Gallery from 16th April to 5th May 2011. The exhibition features paintings on canvas and plein air inspired work on paper.

One word or statement to describe your current works?

A celebration of the magical, teaming with life landscapes that capture my imagination. With diamonds and trees both essentially being carbon, I wonder if stately trees could be the bling of the future?

The landscape is alive. And I feel alive when I’m in it.


Now give us a more descriptive outline on your current works.

My art practice is based on observing and interpreting the ecologies of environments. Through exploration of connected relationships of co-habitation and dependency, I have become increasingly interested in the role plants play as the foundation of life for other species.

Current works continue to be inspired by site visits to conservation areas within Redlands shire [in Qld]. This research began with my exhibition last year, Plant-Life, shown at Redland Art Gallery. My current series features several wetland, coastal heath and island environments on Coochiemudlo, Russell and North Stradbroke Islands. I have found at times that some people think of the ‘bush’ as being monotonous or boring, but I find a wonderful diversity of unique forms – small, large, beautiful and ugly. I reflect on and try to attribute a sense of value to native flora, by recognizing the individual qualities of species. Nothing is superfluous in a natural environment; each plant life is unique and at the same time plays a role in the surrounding ecosystem.

My works are based on direct observation, I only paint things I have seen or experienced, so these trips are very important for the development and inspiration. I have continued to join in outings with Redlands bushcare groups through the seed collection and bird watching groups. Involvement with bushcare groups in Redlands has resulted in works that explore the role people play in shaping habitat. Some ideas reflected in works include migration in South-east Queensland, the value of hollow trees within an environment, volunteer work to stabilize creek edges, water quality testing and seed collection.


Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming exhibition at Salt Contemporary “Diamonds in my eyes”?

“Diamonds in my eyes” was the title of one painting in my last show; I liked the ideas behind this work and decided to focus a show on them. Essentially my current paintings feature species and environments that are treasures to me, places that in my eyes are very valuable and special.

This is the statement for the original painting titled ‘Diamonds in my eyes’:

Diamonds in my eyes’.

This painting tries to capture some of the features I find incredibly beautiful in stately mature trees. It is one of several works developed with the intention of reflecting or attributing a sense of value to the subject, the subject being plants, and more specifically native flora.

Titles for works come from many ideas and experiences. When I started thinking about concepts for this exhibition, one thought was how to represent plants in a way that reflected a sense that they are valuable. I thought about what is considered valuable today, some images of advertising in glossy magazines and marketing of ‘desirable’ or must-have items came to mind. Could stately trees be the bling of the future?

Thinking of trees in terms of diamonds brought back memories of my first job after leaving school. I worked in a large family run jewellers upstairs in Bourke Street, Melbourne. With around thirty staff it wasn’t your everyday chain store type jeweller. I can still recall my amazement at the volume of jewellery sold. Were diamonds really rare? I am drawing a large loop of thoughts here, but diamonds are basically carbon compressed over millennium. I guess I’m more a tree person these days.


What are the main medium/s you work in…and, what caused you to choose the medium you currently work in?

I have worked with many mediums over the years but find painting in acrylics on canvas, incorporating pigmented inks and natural ochres in some works suits my painting style.

I work on canvas in the studio and on paper when outdoors on site. In the last year or two I have taken silhouette forms from my paintings and developed these in hand cut paper works, often layered with overlapping elements. I enjoy working with acrylics because drying times are reasonably fast allowing layers to be built up without too much waiting time. I find I can achieve all the effects I am looking for with acrylics. From glazes and transparent washes to calligraphic chinese brush work and opaque solid patterns and silhouettes. I don’t graduate or modulate colour for natural lighting effects so working wet in wet or the need for slow drying times is not something I am looking for in a medium.

Why are you an artist?

I wonder if I had a choice. I feel compelled to respond to the world around me through visual language.

Was there a big turning point in your art journey that caused you to think that “it’s all worthwhile”, or “oh yeah I get it…”?

Yes, in 2004. I had been painting and exhibiting what I would describe now as ‘pictures’ for many years, but the process had become a bit of a formula. I wasn’t inspired by the work I was making and it lacked purpose or meaning for me. I stopped painting completely for a year and asked myself a few questions. ‘What is the purpose of art?’ “What is the purpose of being an artist?’ Answering these questions for myself was a huge turning point in my art journey. I had been writing in my visual diaries for years about layering images and the works I would like to make, but I hadn’t been making them. It was very challenging at the time to make work that I didn’t know what it should look like (challenging in a good way, exciting, unknown). I had to trust in my instinct and just make it. These early works featured the ecology of my garden and were inspired by direct observations of the various life forms and seasonal changes in it. They were the beginning of my current practice, they were the beginning of painting with purpose or meaning, my art had something to say.


Have you had any “big breaks” in your career?

There have been many stepping stones, I think each one along the way has been important and contributed to my journey, and it would be hard to single out just one.

Do you keep an Art Journal or Visual Diary of some kind?

I have kept art journals since I began making art; I find them a great resource of ideas and inspiration. They include images of all kinds that for some reason have caught my eye. Colour notes, writings of impressions from site visits. Thumbnail sketches of ideas for works, ideas for titles of works, layouts of shows, etc. I try to put pretty much all my ideas in these for reference. They can be great to look back on when beginning work/research for a new show; I can pick up on a trail of ideas or see a focal point to develop further.

What is one thing you need to have in your studio before you work?

Daylight for painting.

Can you describe a ‘typical’ day?

There are studio days, admin days, site visit days, delivery days… Studio days begin around 8am with emails, blogs, etc. then I start painting at 9am, lunch is at 12 noon and then I will stop work around 5pm. It can depend on daylight hours as I like to work in natural light, so longer in summer and shorter in winter. I will often do paper cutting work at night as this is not daylight dependant for me. Some days are just spent in front of the computer all day. Newsletters, website updates, proposals, exhibition statements, etc. It just depends what needs doing most. I work Monday to Friday throughout the year, in the couple of months leading up to a solo exhibition it is often 7 days a week.

Did you have any idea about how the art world worked in the beginning?

No. Now that I have a better idea about it I try not to think about it.

Aside from making art works for exhibition, are there other things that you do to earn a living (eg teaching, workshops, other?)

I worked on my first public art project in 2008 and have had two subsequent projects. These projects take artwork into industrial materials and built environments. It’s a challenging and rewarding experience to work on projects like these. I enjoy them because it takes artwork outside of the traditional gallery space and places them in public spaces where many people can interact and respond to them.

Can you name a favourite artist or three… and why?

Contemporary Australian art in general, I’m always excited to see new work. Artists I like include Fiona Hall, Janet Laurence, John Wolseley, Jenny Orchard, Sally Smart, Shane Cotton and Belinda Fox. Fiona Hall makes incredibly intelligent and sophisticated artworks that are also aesthetically beautiful. I heard Janet Laurence speak about her art practice at FEHVA one year; it was very inspiring and left me thinking wow that is what art can be. John Wolseley’s direct works from observation of environments is inspiring and enthralling to view I think. He immerses himself in the places that feature in his works.

Do you have a personal philosophy that underpins your work?

We, humans, are completely connected to the world around us. If I could achieve one thing from my art it would be to encourage people to value life in all its forms and perhaps recognise that we are not superior but rather dependant on life around us.

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Compiled and edited by Amanda van Gils © 2011+


2 Responses to “Nicola Moss”

  1. Steve Gray on March 18th, 2011 8:57 am

    I’m with Ursula, I like the beautiful and serene driving enchantment, yet somehow I always look for the darker side of the environment.

    A malevolence, a dark side to all the beauty to give us depth of engagement and to see other sides to a scene.

    So much to explore and so little time! 🙂

  2. Nicola Moss on March 20th, 2011 2:07 pm

    Hi Ursula and Steve,
    Lovely to read your responses, Thank you.
    I’m an eternal optimist.