Written by

Where's the frame

November 12, 2020 10:42 AM


Manila born, London based artist Nicole Coson works around the concepts of visibility and disappearance. Her mainly larger than life paintings are mesmerising and invites the viewer to spend time with them. They often depict camouflage and natural elements, creating a safe space to run away to. It’s a place always in-between; between the anonymous and deeply personal, familiar and alien, escapist and entrapping, between a specific place in the Philippines and anywhere at all. In this conversation with the RCA grad, we discuss her technique and the narrative behind her work while she gives excellent tips on what to do in Manilla (in a post-covid world ofc).

Since we cannot meet in person and do a studio visit,  can you describe your workspace?  

I have a studio in an old car park that was converted into artist studios in the 90s. Within my space, I have an old etching press I bought off a  friend, an even older plan chest and a couple wooden work tables. It’s  

a mix between a painting studio in that there are canvases and stretchers everywhere and a print studio in that it always has to stay relatively clean and organised.  



Do you have any rituals or routines before you start working? 

Pre-pandemic days, I used to do boxing training in the mornings before coming to the studio. It was a great way for me to clear my head and shed yesterday's stress so it wouldn’t infiltrate the rest of my workday. These days I just bring my dog Frankie into the studio with me, as he brings a lot of calm and cuddles into the space.  



Can you please describe your artwork in 15 words or less? 

Between the organic and mechanical, anonymous and personal, a  specific place and anywhere at all. 


Nicole Coson, Exoskeleton1, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 130 x 200 cm


For your camouflage series, you applied a printing technique that you explored during your time in CSM.  Are there any more techniques or medium you wish to explore in the future? 

I’ve been working with monotype techniques for years because it is a  technique that I feel is endlessly unfolding itself. I’m always surprised,  always learning something new. But something I’ve really been interested in exploring more is film and video. 



Your latest collections, ‘exoskeleton’ and  ‘exeunt’ (2020) was exhibited in Saatchi, fold and Annka Kultys galleries. What are the narratives behind these two collections? 

The Exoskeleton and exeunt series are about looking and withholding. Both instances, the works function as windows, as an edge or viewing instrument to another dimension, not to be crossed but to be peered through.  


Do you ever feel like people expect your work to be culturally or even, politically engaged? 

Sometimes, although I think it's safe to assume all work is political.  However, I think approaching something with a set of assumptions or expectations can hinder any experience.  


Nicole Coson, Exeunt2, 2020, Inkjet Print on Paper, Magnets, Steel, 100 x 156 cm.

As a young Filipino artist that works and lives in  London, can you give us an insight into the art and culinary scenes in manila? Do you have any recommendations for us? 

There's a place in Manila called the Alley that has some of the best galleries and restaurants in one spot. I spend my afternoons there eating donuts at Poison or chicken sandwiches as Side Chick looking at art until it’s time to eat dinner at my favourite restaurant in Manila, Toyo Eatery. If anyone reading this does go, pop upstairs as I have a  painting in there! (This is a post-vaccine-when-it-is-safe-to-travel  recommendation)  


What’s your favourite thing to do in London? And why? 

My favourite thing to do in London is to hang out in my boyfriend,  Kristian Kragelund’s studio with our dog Frankie.  


Nicole Coson, Exoskeleton 3, 2020, Oil on Canvas, 110 x 150 cm

Do you have any life soundtrack? Like when a sad song comes in and you pretend that you’re in a music video,  kind of song.

Sonic Youth’s cover of Superstar by The Carpenters 


Nicole Coson, Exeunt1, 2020, Inkjet Print on Paper, Magnets, Steel, 100 x 156 cm

What are you currently working on? Any projects we should know of and that you can reveal? 

After New Contemporaries opens in South London Gallery, I’m doing a  solo show at Silverlens Gallery in the Philippines, followed by my first showcase at Art Basel Hong Kong. In London, I will be doing my first solo show with Ben Hunter Gallery this March. 

To follow the projects Nicole is working on, you can visit her instagram and her website.

All photos courtesy of the artist.

where's the frame - ‘in conversation with’ is a weekly series featuring London-based vanguard artists. Stay tuned for more interviews, published every Friday.


Suggested reading: