Derek Nice and David O’Connor

Now showing:

Arks, Angels & Archaeology


new paintings and sculpture

13 October to 25 November 2012

Artists’ Talk with poet Wayne Hill: Saturday 27 October 8pm. Tickets: £8 / £23 with supper.  Phone 01308 459511 to book.

The exhibition brings together two artists concerned with man’s connection with the sea, shore and the rolling chalk downlands. Derek Nice makes ethereal sculptures and scratched, worked and reformed paintings of winged figures, mythical boats, beach huts and shacks. ‘Through a process of restitution and close material intervention I salvage life in found objects and resurrect forms from materials dissolved and disassembled by the sea in order to create works that invoke it,’ he writes. David O’Connor’s paintings combine multiple points of view, memory and history to find pattern and abstraction within the soft colours of the Wessex landscape. His sculptures and drawings revolve around boats inspired by Iron Age boat sculptures, myth, poetry, astronomy and cartography.

Longship 31 by Derek Nice, wood, 85 x 87 x 19cm

Derek Nice was born in London in 1933. He studied painting and ceramics at Southend Art School, London University and the Central School of Art.  His work in teaching art lead on to Art Direction for film, television and theatre including Ken Loach’s first film and working with Ken Russell, John McGrath and Simon Gray’s movie adaptation of the J L Carr novel A Month in the Country (with early roles for Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth).  Subsequently he worked on concepts for several museums, designing The Trafalgar Story in Portsmouth, a replica Viking longship in Oslo and the Gozo Heritage Museum.  Recently he has completed an ambitious set building and giant puppet making performance project with a school in Malta and the Philharmonic Orchestra.’ Derek has been a professional artist since 1990.

White Shacks by Derek Nice, oil on board, 84 x 115cm

Derek Nice’s fascination with maritime history, archaeology, desert graffiti, ancient churches and harbours and his passion for collecting used wood and objects from boatyards and beaches are evident in his painted and sculpted images.  Some are based on the heroes of the industrial revolution such as the steamship Isambard while others, with a different kind of magic, are drawn from vessels painted on pyramid interiors or scratched on rocks in the Nubian desert.  His paintings explore texture and light using clear colours. Scratched, printed, worked and weathered, Derek Nice’s work evokes man’s physical and spiritual connection with the ocean and elements.

To view the works by Derek in the exhibition, please click Derek Nice,

Floating Blue Field 2011 by David O’Connor 51x41cm acrylic on canvas

David O’Connor was born in the Wirral in 1959, one of nine brothers. His father, after an eventful career as a Merchant Seaman, leading to dramatic stories for his sons, became a craftsman in wood making and sailing beautiful model yachts.  Influenced by John Sell Cotman and inspired by Paul Nash, David O’Connor studied art in Sunderland and the Slade School of Art, London. He was always very talented technically, carving and constructing in stone, metal and wood, as well as producing ambitious performance pieces, but for David O’Connor ideas dictate the form of his artworks. ‘What we do as artists is remind people by alluding to the sublime nature of our existence. The work is poetry not prose. The boats are emblems for the self.  The form of the boat is idealised and condensed much like mediaeval illustration where scale and form are manipulated to tell the story rather than merely represent.’

Sacred Vessel 9 by David O’Connor 2012 100x57x4cm painted beech and steel

While he describes his paintings as ‘direct and intuitive’, his drawings and sculpture show the workings of his mind. ‘Much of my work is not a single point of view image: it is constructed from different information including reference to the means of production in this case cartography, astronomy, surveying and perspective.

Measurement, time and the movement of the heavens are all evident.  These are scientific and mystical at the same time.’ The bringing together of science and art is a theme O’Connor has explored throughout his career. Many collections have bought his work including Unilever, numerous hospital collections, Marlborough College, Allied International Ltd, Roundstone International, Delaney Fletcher Delaney, Jacob Blacker Architects, Handmade Maps and Lady Gibberd.

Fields 2012 by David O’Connor 76x51cm acrylic on canvas

He is also fascinated by mapmaking and the dichotomy between the changing and the timeless nature of landscape. ‘In landscapes particularly places like Wiltshire I feel a strong sense of history, walking the same soil and looking at the same sun and moon as the people who built Stonehenge. The paintings are an attempt to combine topographical information with an awareness of pattern and abstraction within Wessex landscapes. Fragments of memories of place and layered points of view are combined in single images.’

‘Aesthetic and intellectual gratification go hand in hand, and indeed this has become one of the hallmarks of David O’Connor’s art.’ Jonathan Benington, Curator Victoria Art Gallery, Bath.

To view the works by David in the exhibition please click David O’Connor

Both artists have much in common with our resident former boat builder, the furniture designer craftsman Petter Southall. See his tab in the menu for more information.

Anchor wall hung Table in Brown Oak by Petter Southall

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