Nina Royle: And so, the magpies multiply

23 March - 9 June 2024

Nina’s work is richly layered, combining dreamlike imagery with a sensuous thingness, an assertive presence in the world. She brings together the real and imagined to approach something intuited about the way we experience life.  (Dr. Lizzie Fisher)

Nina Royle is an artist based in West Cornwall. Her work is centred on painting but is also made as utilitarian objects, and in this case, installation. Her most recent work comes together in a new exhibition entitled, And so, the magpies multiply, on show at Kestle Barton from 23 March – 9 June, 2024.  It is an exhibition of paintings, bronze mirrors, ceramics and works on fabric. Royle explains that the imagery moving between these mediums, ‘thinks through symbolisms related to growth, reflection and vanitas (a witness of life’s temporality… our mortality)’:

To think about symbols and to think about images, particularly during the act of painting where everything thought and seen seems to move around – is somehow a play between these two states – stasis and motion; thinking and unthinking. How do the black and white chevrons of road signs slip into the black and white feathers glimpsed of a magpie’s wing in flight? (Nina Royle, 2024)

Symbols steeped in mythology and cultural associations are found throughout these works, such as the mirror, the keyhole and the pomegranate; offering different strata of meaning and serving to give form to things unseen. Royle’s paintings use a traditional gesso surface most typically associated with medieval panel painting. The surface made from this approach is an absorbent, luminous and ultra-smooth ground. They are haptic vessels that allow the rich tapestry of images that Royle weaves together to coalesce.

The hand mirror is another leitmotif that occurs throughout the exhibition and represents ‘a close, domestic, graspable apparatus for seeing’. Royle’s work asks, ‘But what is ever truly graspable? What is a mirror? An object or image, a way to understand, an opening, a keyhole, a truth, or an untruth?’

The mirrors appear as both painted motifs and as objects made from sheet brass and bronze. Historically there are many examples of mirrors made from polished metal, such as the St Keverne bronze mirror found in a field close to Kestle Barton. Bronze is an alloy made from tin and copper. The surface can be rubbed until it shines but it will scab with a moss-green verdigris if left to oxidise, stealing or concealing the mirror’s reflective ability. Royle gives us an insight into her world of images as she explains, ‘pupil of the moon, a mirror is a symbol that glitters with possibilities for meaning. An object that is an image which shows inconstant reflections, its very form can cause fixed understandings to unravel and multiply like magpies. ’

This exhibition does exactly that; offering many potential readings, and opening a portal for the imagination to make connections, while delighting in the rich interweaving of materials, symbols and crafting that is braided through Nina Royle’s artistry.

2024 Nina Royle Artist Statement

Nina Royle, Untitled (bronze mirror), 2022
Chased and patinated sheet bronze, 26 x 17cms.
Photo by Annie Handscomb


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Ceramic work by Nina Royle

Paintings by Nina Royle

Bronze mirrors by Nina Royle

Nina Royle

Nina Royle graduated with an MA in Fine Art from the Slade School of Art in 2016. She is an Associate lecturer, and Senior Painting Technician, at Falmouth University and has a studio at CAST in Helston.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Down Your Tresses, Arusha, Edinburgh 2022; Tongues and Mirrors in Mercury, Kingsgate Project Space, London (2021).

Recent group exhibitions and projects include: Act’s of Gathering (with Lucy Stein), Eden Project, Cornwall (2023); And One Day the Apple Fell (curated by Dan Howard-Birt) The Black Box UCA, Farnham; (2023) Hospital Rooms commission (with Libita Sibungu), Springfield Hospital, London (2022); Bathing Nervous Limbs, Arusha, Edinburgh, 2021.

Portrait of Nina Royle by Annie Handscombe

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