Born Cheshire UK 1963
Nicholls studied at Goldsmiths College for a BA Fine Art (1982-86), University of East London MFA (1996-98) and
Doctorate in Fine Art (2000-06).
Barbara 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 archaelogical/ 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
Barbara Nicholls says ‘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.
She has had her work widely and internationally exhibited, including Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, (2023 & 2022), Ben Parsons Gallery + Hannah Payne (2023) The Jetty Museum Windermere, (2022) JGM Gallery London (2020 & 2019), The Turnpike, Leigh, (2019) Städtisches Museum- Galerie im Centrum-Wesel, Germany (2019) The New Art Gallery Walsall, (2017), Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery NSW Australia (2017), Museum Kurhaus Kleve Germany (2015), Griffin Gallery London (2013), Tourhaus Romberg Park Dortmund Germany (2013), Emerson Gallery Berlin (2013), Dok25a Düsseldorf Germany (2012), Projektraum-bahnhof25 Kleve, Germany (2012), KARST Plymouth UK (2012) Pavillon am Milchhof Berlin (2011), APT Gallery London (2008), Imperial War Museum London (2002).
Nicholls has held several residencies including Stiftung zur Förderung zeitgenössischer Kunst Germany (2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016) The Turnpike Leigh (2019) Mungo National Park NSW, Australia (2016) Telpost, Millingen ann Rijn, Netherlands (2016 and 2013) Winsor & Newton, UK (2012) ArToll ,Bedburg-Hau Germany(2010, 2012 and 2014), Ateliergemeinschaft, Milchhof e.V. Berlin 2009 and the British Council, Brazil 1994.
Nicholls has been the recipient of a number of bursaries and awards including grants from the Arts Council England and the British Council. Her work is held in the collection of Museum Kurhaus Kleve Germany, The New Art Gallery Walsall UK,Willhelm Kaiser Museum Germany and private collections in UK, France, USA and Iran.
She lives and works in London and Bollington, Cheshire.