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Nicola Bealing’s wonderful narrative painting
Nicola Bealing’s painting, crammed as it is with human and animal life, often begins with the story. And story telling for her began with reading her way through the world’s fairy tales and mythologies as an eight year old at school in Kuala Lumpur. ‘I still have a powerful sense of the world inside those books,‘ she says, ‘alternating dark and light, blood and forests, wind and sky and sea, eyes and teeth, long roads, high mountains, talking birds.’ The books were not illustrated, luckily perhaps, sparking that vividly seeing inner eye into picturing the whole rich mix.
In this current collection of paintings, the stories are many and there for the attentive viewer to wonder at. These images demand a reading – or many readings – for nothing is spelled out. But to be human is to wonder at each other’s lives and so we stand before a painting such as Sprouting Like Weeds and find ourselves musing on what can have happened. We can’t help ourselves, we are compelled to ask – just what strange event, what force can have caused these men to be standing up to their chests in water, varieties of weeds growing out of their heads? They are ridiculous, pathetic but somehow all the more human for their weedy growths.
So Nicola sets the scene; she enjoys absurdity and herd-like behaviour. She likes the moments when her characters flounder and sometimes she finds her subjects taking on lives of their own, acting in ways that are inexplicable even to her. Why are the couple in Feeding Time attempting to eat peas in the manner of the old party game, her standing behind him, arms around him wielding a knife and fork, trying vainly to shovel the peas into his mouth? The peas fly and it could indeed be a party game, but somehow we don’t think so. What at first seems lighthearted and fun in Nicola’s work often reveals a darkness, an edge to the humour. It’s a simple step to feeling http://www.nicolabealing.co.uk/essays/