Levi Nicholat is a Saskatoon artist who works in acrylic and oil, painting vibrant playful scenes dominated by figures and suggestive of narratives. Like two of his influences, David Hockney and Ron Kitaj, he “combines figuration with modernist abstraction.” Asked if his work references other artists, Levi says, “You look at art history in a critical way…you have to think about that context…With the internet, the availability of the images and the history is all there. You just have to digest that and then it does spill out. You still have to do something that’s yours, or unique, or potentially new, but it can’t not reference what’s come before.”
Levi describes his artistic process: “My work uses the human figure to re-construct and re-imagine personal narratives. My approach involves repeated layering, re-working and editing. The paintings are allowed to preserve the record of my process, the creation and destruction, appearance and disappearance, suggestion and denial. Bodies rendered on the canvas are repeatedly edited, moved, repainted until the original representations are transfigured into fragmented, abstracted forms. Through this self-conscious practice of showing and covering up, the process of painting becomes a metaphor relating to issues of queer identity.”
“This kind of editing is something that I’ve maybe always done, but it was to clean up [the work], but then to finish it in a particular way, and to erase the evidence of the editing…I came to realize that those kind of in-between states where something’s over-painted but there’s still a trace of what …[was] there, that’s actually when it’s most interesting—to see the thought processes of what’s going on in the making of the work, instead of just what the imagery stands for on its own.”
Family Farm, acrylic on canvas 48 in. x 60 in., 2008
Trinity, oil on canvas, 48 in. x 60 in., 2009
Untitled, acrylic, paper and tape on canvas, 48 in. x 60 in., 2011
Bathers, acrylic on canvas, 72 in. x 120 in. (2 panels), 2011
tention, acrylic and paper on canvas, 60 in. x 96 in. (2 panels), 2011
de-rection, acrylic on canvas, 72 in. x 96 in., 2011
campfire, acrylic on canvas, 72 in. x 96 in., 2011
untitled, acrylic on canvas, 48 in. x 96 in., 2012
Levi Nicholat was born in Saskatoon in 1984. He earned a BFA and an MFA in Visual Art from the University of Saskatchewan, and is currently at work on new paintings in his backyard studio.
Kim, thanks for introducing us to Nicholat’s work. These paintings are gorgeous and stirring.
Thanks, Mary! I was really impressed by Levi’s work.
If you have not already read “Brutality of Fact” by David Sylvester, you must. It is one of the best accounts of an artist’s process I have ever read. “Brutality of Fact” is a quote from Picasso.Thanks for sharing your work and process, and Kim for bringing it to our attention.
Nancy Anne Miller
Very nice introduction Kim!
I really enjoyed Levi’s work, “repeated layering” is new to me…