Nicola Bealing: Death & Circuses

9 July - 4 September 2016

‘….things as certain as death and taxes,’ Daniel Defoe, The Political History of the Devil 1726

‘Bread and circuses’ (‘…panem et circenses’) Juvenal AD100

Nicola Bealing is a leading painter and printmaker in Cornwall who works from the CAST Studios in Helston. Bealing creates figurative and fictitious imagery inspired by fish, animals, insects and humans of all shapes and sizes. Her work is often a dark and perceptive commentary on human nature in both natural habitats and unexpected ones.

This exhibition will feature large-scale paintings made in response to the archives of the Helston Folk Museum. This body of work is a unique opportunity to see Bealing weave her creative compositions from stories of historical, local interest. The exhibition focuses on particular records from the archive related to identity, crime and punishment. The stuff good stories are made of….


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Artist's statement

‘….things as certain as death and taxes,’ Daniel Defoe, The Political History of the Devil 1726

‘Bread and circuses’ (‘…panem et circenses’) Juvenal AD100

“Early in 2015 I was given the opportunity to spend time in the archives of Helston Museum, adjacent to my studio, in order to look for sources on which to base a new body of work. Having never worked in this way I was initially dazzled by the possibilities of the resource and found myself struggling to identify threads which held relevance to my own practice as a painter.

The Museum is traditionally laid out – and very densely crammed with artefacts relating to the life of a small Cornish town, documenting mining, fishing, seafaring, agriculture, sport, love, death, childhood, costume, archaeology, entertainment and much, much more. It seemed that the archives hold all the excess material that overflows from the main body of the museum, in a tangled, largely uncatalogued and exciting chaos.
In the deluge of documents and objects in the archive, two themes recurred and brought to mind the two quotes above : the fastidious value placed on the most trivial financial records and the obsessively detailed and repetitive accounts of entertainments such as Helston’s Flora Day.

A contraction of the two phrases gave me the project’s title and helped me to identify a potential path through the bewildering and surreally varied volume of material.

I eventually narrowed my focus down to 9 documents and archive photographs – and used these as a springboard for around 10 large paintings and 30 – 40 smaller works and works on paper.

A grant from Arts Council England has meant that I have been able to work exclusively on the project over the last year – and it continues to spark new ideas and to catapult me into unexpected directions in my work.”

Nicola Bealing, 2016



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