Jacque Nimki was artist in residence at the Camden Arts Centre in 2003, his work was included in Art of the Garden at the Tate Britain in 2004. More recently he has had solo exhibitions at the Ikon gallery in Birmingham and at the Approach in London.
Jacques Nimki was a resident artist at King’s Wood, Challock, Kent, one of a series of residencies hosted by Stour Valley Arts. King’s Wood is a working forest managed by the Forestry Commission and is used by a range of visitors, mainly for walking and recreation.
Usually Jacques Nimki collects, presses and makes large scale drawings of those plants found on urban waste ground. Easily categorised as weeds they are hardy and resilient, often unseen they find their own life within the everyday. In the wood, on the other hand, these same plants are designated wildflowers displaying what he describes as ‘a never ending series of idealised moments’, heralding the start of seasons or punctuating the natural daily cycle. His residency in King’s Wood has provided him with a new context in which to consider his work and develop ideas for this exhibition.
Woodlock draws together elements from both the urban and rural environments inviting us to consider contrasting ideas about nature, bio-diversity and conservation.
King’s Wood is a working forest managed by the Forestry Commission. Most of the trees are grown for their timber, to be cut down, removed and sold. The woods are also used by a wide range of visitors for recreation, mostly walking. Stour Valley Arts is an arts commissioning agency based in the forest who invite artists to participate in their residence programme. The residency provides an opportunity to research and develop a project over a long period of time without the pressure of short deadlines, allowing the work to lead the artistic process. Having no gallery, residency artists either make work that is placed in the forest or make work that relates to the forest and is exhibited elsewhere.
My practice usually takes place in urban environments – walking the streets, canals and waste areas searching for plants that are looked at but not seen, forgotten in the backdrops of the everyday, inhabiting places that are neglected or unexplored.
When I begin to research a site, I gather information – unlike a botanist, more like a hobbyist – collecting plants for drawing, flower pressing and seed collecting.
In the urban environment many of the plants (weeds) that I find in the street are extremely hardy and almost impossible to eradicate. Not protected by any laws, they find their own ways of surviving. They can regenerate themselves from tiny pieces of roots or stem, and some can produce thousands of seeds that can germinate, grow and set seed again in a few weeks.
In the woods many of these plants are seen as wildflowers, a different context providing not only a different visual response, but a different sense of ownership. In a working forest, ‘nature’ is managed, harnessed and controlled.
The common view amongst conservationists is that traditional landscape is man-made and should continue to be so. The idea that nature could manage on its own is not encouraged – an autonomous nature would only lead to disaster and chaos, not just for us, but for nature itself.
In the city the weeds more than any other plants have a sense of autonomy. Surviving in the toughest of conditions, they have the opportunity to complete their full life cycle under their own terms, ignored and unseen – plants that are more natural than the ‘nature’ that excludes them.
This exhibition at Fabrica marks the halfway point of my residency in King’s Wood. So far I have found the forest to be an extremely inhospitable place, a place where the idea of ‘nature’ is a backdrop to a never-ending series of idealised moments: groups of primroses found in perfect clusters, floors covered in bluebells, the morning sun breaking through the forest canopy, the unfurling of the first leaves in Spring, all present and not in the same moment, preserved and repeated each year, locked in the woods.