In the studio with… Nicolas Party

Nicolas Party is best known for his fantastical and disturbing pastel landscapes, often populated by caricatural characters evoking the paintings of Magritte. These brightly colored androgynous figures are also likely to appear as monumental busts on trompe l’oeil plinths; Party works through a range of mediums, including public sculpture, ceramics and installations. His last exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – ‘Nicolas Party: The purple hour‘ (February 12–October 16) – brings together over 100 works, including in situ painted murals, which provide a surreal window into the natural world.

Where is your workshop?

Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York

What do you like most about space?

The studio has amazing windows that let in lots of natural light and offer a unique view of the Manhattan skyline.

What frustrates you about this?

It’s in an industrial building with old radiators – it’s hard to control the climate and it’s often too hot in the middle of winter.

Do you work alone?

We are a small team – three people work in the studio with me.

Trees (2014), Nicolas Party. Photo: Thorsten Arendt; © Nicolas Party

How messy is your studio?

It depends on the area of ​​the studio – some are very messy and some are extremely organized. The pastel room is full of dust that we try hard not to spread everywhere.

What does it smell like?

At the moment the studio smells of oil paint as I work on a series of small oil paintings on copper.

What’s the weirdest thing in there?

There is a beautiful rock formation in the office. This is called a gogotte formation and it is a natural form sandstone concretion millions of years old. It looks like a sculpture by Hans Bellmer.

Landscape (2015), Nicolas Party.  Photo: Andrea Rossetti;  © Nicolas Party

Countryside (2015), Nicolas Party. Photo: Andrea Rossetti; © Nicolas Party

What artistic tool could you least do without?

Pencil, eraser and sketchbook.

What is the most leafed through book in your studio?

A copy of Georgia O’Keeffe’s catalog raisonné.

Do you pin images of works by other artists?

I generally don’t pin the images I print. I keep them in digital files. Right now I am looking at different examples of tabernacles for an exhibition that will take place in Milan in April.

What do you listen to while you work?

I almost never work in silence. My audio time is split between podcasts and music. I prefer to keep my mind busy while I work. It makes my decision-making faster and freer than if I were fully focused on the piece in front of me.

Do you sometimes sleep in your studio?

I sometimes take a nap if I come over the weekend with my little toy poodle.

Portrait with Mushrooms (2019), Nicolas Party.  Pictured: Adam Reich;  © Nicolas Party

Portrait with Mushrooms (2019), Nicolas Party. Pictured: Adam Reich; © Nicolas Party

Who is the most interesting visitor you have had in your studio?

Xavier F. Salomon, Chief Curator of the Frick Collection, visited the studio to examine the two Rosalba Carriera pastels I have in my collection. Hidden behind the wooden colander of a pastel, he discovered a small piece of folded paper called Santino. The paper, probably placed there by Carriera herself nearly 300 years ago, featured a small image to protect the pastel during its journey to its new owner.

‘Nicolas Party: The purple hour’ is at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from February 12 to October 16.

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