The painting process is fascinating. Thousands of seemingly meaningless decisions of colour, direction of line, thickness of brush stroke, space and shapes. Hundreds of thousands of hours spent documenting life through the eyes of one human.
Nicole Sanderson is an established Zimbabwean born artist, well known for her paintings of birds. She paints predominantly in oil paint on large canvases. Her primary choice of subject matter is Zimbabwean flora and fauna but has a real eye for birdlife. Nicole grew up in a farming community in Nyazura, located in the Eastern Highlands on a commercial tobacco farm where she spent her childhood engrossed in nature, wildlife and farm life. She discovered her passion for painting from a very young age and when she was not at boarding school or exploring the wild, she was tucked up in her room drawing and painting. ‘It took me a long time to connect the dots of how my past experiences have so powerfully influenced my work today and even longer to find comfort with my style. With no boundaries and vast open spaces, farm life allowed me to be with nature.’
Nicole has travelled and exhibited her work extensively since completing her degree in Savannah, GA, USA in 2006. She has spent time living and working in France, USA, China and various towns and cities in Southern Africa and now resides back in Zimbabwe with her husband and 5 year old daughter. She lives and works from her modest studio in Victoria Falls, bordering one of earths most beautiful waterfalls surrounded by bush, birds, wildlife and wonderful weather.
It is no wonder there is constant source of inspiration that Nicole draws from. Nicole is as equally fascinated with birds and their behaviour as she is with the process of painting. ’The physical act of moving paint from a palette onto a canvas again and again, and watching what was a thought become a thing is incredibly fulfilling. It is an intense form of therapy or meditation.’
She spends a great deal of time researching her subject matter but also allows creativity to be what it is. Anatomy is important but it is the memory of sound and the movement of the flock of birds she is trying to capture in her paintings. Nicole says she feels a sense of detachment from her work once it is complete. ‘It is almost as if my body had to be present for my soul to do the work.’
Nicole has recently opened a small gallery located at the Shongwe Lookout in Victoria Falls. The gallery is located up a unique and distinctive 4 story viewing tower offering you a stunning 360-degree view of Victoria Falls and the mighty Zambezi River. The tower welcomes you with walls covered in original somewhat contemporary paintings of birds in and amongst ilala palms, building nests or in the flock. Her paintings spiral up the well-lit tower where the quiet space allows you to fully engage and appreciate the balance of abstract and contemporary backgrounds and amazing attention to detail. Her striking bold colours and sometimes repetitive compositions create an interesting element of painterly design provoking an overall sense of calm. Moments captured which in nature pass in a fleeting moment.
Images provided by Nicole Sanderson
Copyright: NZiRA Magazine Issue 15