Nicholas Nyland is a Washington-based artist who creates paintings, sculptures and installations. Stating that his work is “driven by a fascination with the life of form, the nature of creation and the will to decorate,” Nyland makes works that are abstract, but contain references to history and traditional craft sources. Embracing abstraction because as he says, “it is generous and capacious, able to absorb and then release a multitude of references,” Nyland does in fact draw from a myriad of sources. For his most recent solo show in Seattle, Physical Speculations on a Future State, Nyland incorporated inspiration from Chinese scholar’s stones, Japanese gardens, Early American decorative traditions and 1970s design. Despite such wide-ranging influences, Nyland manages to create works that are at once formally engaging and conceptually inquisitive. Nyland leaves room for a viewer to consider material, gesture and form, but enigmatic historical references also provide inquiry into the way we define and identify objects.
There is lightheartedness to Nyland’s work that borders on humorous. A viewer can tell that Nyland enjoyed making whatever object she is observing. The lack of seriousness involved in Nyland’s works further promotes active questioning about material, influence and formal choice. Moreover, the tactile quality of Nyland’s work makes it all the more engaging. Bordering on craft with some of his works, Nyland’s pieces are all distinctly handmade. There is a purposeful clumsiness to them that is charming and endearing.
Recent winner of a Contemporary Northwest Art Award, Nyland’s work will be on view at the Portland Art Museum through January 12, 2014.