Barbara Nicholls is based in two studios in the UK (London and Bollington, Cheshire).
She has increasingly worked abroad over the last 10 years taking up artist’s residencies and collaborations. These have been in Rheinland Pfalz 2018, 2017, 2016, Millingen ann de Rijn The Netherlands 2016 and 2013, Mungo NSW Australia 2016, Berlin 2009, Bedburg Hau Germany 2014, 2012 and 2010, some of which were accompanied by a solo or group exhibition (see CV).
In Germany Nicholls began a series of collaborations with artists and curators that continue to this day, including exhibitions, discussions and international exchanges.
Nicholls’ artwork takes as its point of departure issues of history, memory and metaphor, involving detailed research into architectural/archeological sites, their traces and remains, and the complicated methods of their recording and analysis. Her visual practice, although mainly centred around painting has employed a broad range of mediums and materials, including photography, video, sound, fabric and installation. Most recently, Nicholls uses techniques of watercolour wash on a monumental scale.
Nicholls' monumental watercolour works emerge by manipulating the behaviour of pigment in ever-increasing quantities of water. As such, their production remains consistent with that of Nicholls’ wider body of work, where she has stitched, drawn, cut, built and extracted her media from archaeological/ architectural/geological and other sites of significance.
“Nicholls has followed the idiosyncrasies in the behaviour of her materials and has orchestrated them into resonant shapes that, while never declaring themselves in any specific identity, nonetheless touch collective memories of the experience of natural spaces, of the landscape. In that way, she formulates a new reality.”—Martin Holman (extract of essay Barbara Nicholls: Sedimentary Flow published by Black Dog Press 2017)
"When I create my watercolours on paper I recall places I have experienced and others I imagine as the work forms. Some seen and others sensed. I remember ancient meandering pathways; natural and man-made dams and bridges across rivers; the controlled carrying of water in aqueducts and canals; flooded fields with lines of debris left behind after the water has retreated; tide marks on beaches; cumulus clouds over hills reflected in ponds; coloured mineral and sediments forming lines on the banks of rivers; varying depths and shapes of geological layers in cliffs and quarries revealing past events and movements of the earth.
Robert Smithson wrote ‘The mind, one’s mind, and the Earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers water away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought. Ideas decompose into stones of unknowing…’ Barbara Nicholls.
Subsequent to her studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London (BA Fine Art), Nicholls received an MA and Doctorate in Fine Art from the University of East London.