Flowers Gallery, the New York edition of the successful London art gallery, currently has an exhibition of Nicola Hicks’ work. Nicola Hicks is a native Londoner who received her MA from the Royal College of Art, and has been honored by English government with an MBE. The Flowers’ show has six of Hicks’ sculptures, mostly of animals, made out of straw and plaster or bronze. It also includes three, charcoal drawings of a bear, donkey and cat. Nicola Hicks masters realistic anatomy and conveys complex psychology in her animals.
Getting off the elevator and walking to the gallery entrance glass door, I was immediately struck by Dressed for the Woods, the largest and most expensive sculpture in the gallery. Two humans, a man and a woman, stand before a cub that sits on the floor in a baby pose, its paws reaching out to clutch its little toes. The man and woman reveal no human emotions but recall ancient caryatids. The humans and bear mimic each other’s species; the cub behaves like a young child, while the humans, cloaked in bear fur, stand their ground. The trio forms an unconventional family; the little bear, in its submissive stance, expresses a childlike playful nature and vulnerability, which the humans stand over and provide protection for.
There are two other sculptures called Banker I and Banker II, which explore the civilized and wild natures of bankers and their compulsion to establish superiority over other life. The chained up bear solemnly follows its Dickensian owner in Banker I. The sad and domesticated bear hangs its head in surrender to its unnatural lifestyle, while the man clad in Victorian coattails is equally controlled by the rules of civil society. A Minotaur clutches the two halves of a ripped apart dog in Banker II. The half man, half bull ancient monster has turned the little animal into the literal reflection of its own status as a half-breed. Of course this Banker series serves as a social commentary, depicting the banker both as the pinnacle of civil society and as the damned, only half human, savage destroyer.
Nicola Hicks succeeds in expressing a genuine soul in all her creatures, whether human, animal or half-breed. Her ability to depict both physical accuracy and personality comes out in her sculpted creatures and charcoal drawings. Her work is both beautiful to look at and thought provoking, definitely worth a visit to Flowers Gallery in Chelsea.
Words: Katherine Morais Photo: Banker II (left) Banker I, (right) both 2009, bronze, edition 3 © Nicola Hicks, courtesy of Flowers Gallery