Nicholas Borden, Artist
I came across Nicholas Borden standing with his easel in the cold, painting on the corner of Three Colts Lane before Christmas and, even at first glance, I was captivated by his work. But I was unable to speak with him since he was already getting his ear bent by a passing cyclist. Instead, Nicholas handed me one of his cards in gracious response to the brief compliment I was able to interject.
The afternoon light was fading fast as I continued on my way, considering the frustration of the landscape painter on the street, subject to constant distraction from idle passersby. Yet when I visited his studio recently, Nicholas admitted that he enjoys the interruptions.“It’s good to be in the open air and interacting with people.” he enthused, “They see what you are doing and they come and start talking to you – people are very flattering.”
He showed me the series of bold panoramic paintings he has been working on which, in their unusual broad proportion, evoke those early renaissance pictures created to adorn marriage chests by artists such as Uccello and Botticelli. Employing vibrant colours and dynamic compositions, Nicholas’ paintings manifest the spontaneous life of the East End streets with painterly ease, delighting in the quirky geometry and the curious divergent perspectives of familiar locations.
“Since I left college, I think I was lost for a couple of years but now I feel I am at a very creative stage – part of this has come from working on location,” he declared in excitement, as he showed me the works he has created in the past eighteen months, “I’ve got several easels and I carry my backpack and portfolio. I’m quite hardy so I can withstand most weather, I’m an outdoors person.”
Originally from the West Country, Nicholas came to London to study Graphics at St Martins College of Art and then Communications at the Royal College of Art, and he recalls the first time he visited the East End. “I remember coming to a party on Brick Lane, it was quite an eye-opener to a boy from Devon – certainly different and exciting, I suppose.” he confided, “And this has been the area of London I have always come back to.” After graduation Nicholas returned to Devon and he took jobs in factories and warehouses, without making any art for several years. “I gave it up,” he confessed with frown of regret, withdrawing into himself, “Then I had my car stolen and the people who took it broke into my flat when I was there, that was a real low point for me.”
Coming back to live with his brother in the East End, Nicholas started making pictures again. “I returned to the kind of work I did as a teenager, doing line drawings,” he explained modestly, revealing how he liberated himself from the problematic experience of his college education and regained emotional possession of his artistic endeavours by picking up a personal thread.
Of course, there is a sophisticated technique that belies itself in these elegant pictures, but more significantly there is a joy in the medium that grants them an immediate appeal. “This is a re-invention, I feel I have completely transformed myself,” Nicholas assured me, surprised at his own words.
Even though he has not yet shown any of these pictures or had an exhibition, I know you will be seeing more of the work of Nicholas Borden. But in the meantime, if you spot him on a street corner in the East End, you are licensed to go up and say, “hello.”
Three Colts Lane (click to enlarge)
Middleton Rd, Dalston (click to enlarge)
Blackfriars (click to enlarge)
Wick Rd, Hackney
Regent’s Canal next to Victoria Park
Cavendish Mansions, Clerkenwell Rd
Regent’s Canal at Mare St
Earnshaw St, High Holborn
Whitechapel from the roof of the Idea Store
Images copyright © Nicholas Borden