Erica Nockalls – EN Album Launch & Exhibition @ Havill & Travis, Harborne, Birmingham – 23rd October 2014


Erica Nockall’s début montage exposition of paintings and optional original music listened through headphones is a serendipitous collaboration hosted by the newly opened gallery of Havill & Travis in Harborne, Birmingham. The latter gallerians being, Gerv Havill, co-entrepreneur dynamo behind the Moseley Park Music Festivals and Dave Travis, ubiquitous Svengali Birmingham music promoter.

Nockalls, a Birmingham Conservatoire-trained violinist, still continuing to make fruitful Faustian-pacts with her Rock ‘n Roll demons — her previous includes collaborations with The Wonder Stuff and The Proclaimers and currently fronting her  eponymously named band – has decidedly demonstrated she has yet other strings to her bow.

With an oil-paint palette-vivid rage against the mundane, Nockalls, presents a kaleidoscopic imaginariam of abstractions coiled within subtle distractions, deceptions and beguiling hidden truths.

The exhibition’s novel hook hangs by the conceit whereupon each painting draws its name from songs on her November 2014 release album, EN2. Visitors/participators are invited to headphone listen-in to its name dedicated track (facilitated by dedicated dinky MP3 nodes ‘listening stations’ aside each picture). The motive(s), and questions raised thereby, driving this inviting dynamic are open to conjecture, as indeed, are the primary inspirations and interpretations of Nockalls’ accomplished abstract paintings. Is it a post-ironic ploy to mimic the endemic reliance on oh so annoying hissing headphones of the MP3 medium degenerating the message? A retro-sentimental lament for a time when a fan would assiduously devour and decode the very last minutiae of a vinyl LP cover? Or, maybe just she’s a savvy, manipulative multi-media minx teasing our collective disconnect whereby we as viewer/listeners are unable to share reactions — or even intimidations. For Christ’s sake, Erica, we just want to look at some pictures and now we have to think stuff as well!

The flesh blemished, speckled apparitions who haunt the crushed, rushing melee in Weight Of The Nations suggested, in some visitors’ minds eye the London Underground. Another, meanwhile, saw a bunch of compressed coppers giving those hippy travellers a good kicking at The Battle Of The Beanfields. A picture to evoke dammedly diverse disputations nonetheless. Dangerous stuff, Art when you let it off the leash — it’s prone to bite you back.

All paintings are mounted within uniform modular, alternating black/white approx. 20” squared framing.  The exception being the reduced sized nine pieced symmetrical, checkerboard tableau of ‘Yours Still Stinks’.

Lacking, or then again, perhaps celebrating, any discernable unifying narrative, the predominantly chaotic, linear/dis-angular-angered finger and brush swipes and squirming strokes generate unsettling emotions of dissolute ambiguity. Could it be that the repetitive motif of x9 modular form framing overbears the content? That, the presentation diminishes the performance? Discuss if you will.

But then we come to exhibit 8 — Freight. And what a Carnevale, Mediterranean red and blue eyeball bonanza of industrial landscape vibrancy it is. The subject matter, whilst vigorously disputed amongst its admirers, lends, at least for this writer, a vivid, fiesta faerie-aerial perspective of a container marshaling-yard at night. Being Birmingham based, and a seasoned Transit van gig-hopper, the night-time phantasmagoric elevated M6 view across the Bescott railway yards must surely have burned in to Nockall’s synapses. Whispers of Rueben Colley’s Spaghetti Junction night studies come to mind. Whatever so – Freight original – sold on the first-night’s exhibition – but there is a limited signed print run of one hundred at £90 each. Collectors take note. That goes also for the haunted lit forest of subliminal swaying anemone enchantments in Partition — also a print that bristles to break out even more in its enlarged reproduction. Should this not encourage Nockalls to courageously embrace larger canvases in future? A frame is but a cork that contains the Genie waiting to be released – or a maybe a tempting key to Pandora’s Box?

Erica Nockalls — her wondering, wonderful, tactile fluidic imaginations, embrace lonely hearts and souls in need of a kiss and a kick. She is making her mark – time now to be really dangerous.

The exhibition at Havill & Travis, 14 Lonsdale Road, Harborne, ends Saturday 1st November. Info from Havill & Travis

Erica Nockall’s album, EN2 is releasing on November 5th 2014. Pre-order copies


Photography: Erica Nockalls – Dave Travis, “Freight” & Feature Photograph – Ian Dunn

Words: John Kennedy


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