Ken Nicol is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist. Elements of his work include drawing, typing, metal, potato chips and coffee cups. He’s been exhibited in Miami, Chicago, New York, Winnipeg and all over Toronto.
I was sitting in my studio one night, pretty late, and I realized that I was surrounded by my name written on boxes so I ran around and cut them all off and eventually made that into a piece. The whole idea of getting a package became different because I was more excited about what was written on it than the stupid old clock or whatever inside. Now I have a hundred boxes with little windows cut out so that could be a sculpture eventually
I don’t think it’s because I’m up late at night. I think you have to live and breathe work. Finding my names wasn’t premeditated. It wasn’t calculated. It was just like, ‘Fuck, there’s a thing.’ I didn’t know it was going to be a piece and I didn’t know it was going to be a collection of one hundred. I realized I had sixty-five and that I could push it to a hundred. A hundred was great because now I had a tool and I could stop doing it after I reached that number. [The show was called ‘Hundreds of Things.’]
I’ve always collected. I’m not sure if I collect as much as I’m not able to throw things away.
I’m dating my coffee cup collection now. I don’t really know why but I just am–and the place where I get them changed my cups! They changed the lids! Fuckers! This used to be the lid and now you don’t get a nice thing on the top anymore. There’s some weird shit that happens with these lids.
I’m in my studio everyday. I don’t take a day off. What am I going to do? There’s nothing on TV. I actually have a little book to remind myself that I’ve locked my studio when I leave. It was a piece called ‘Obsessive Compulsive Order‘ and I still fill it out. It wasn’t intended as a piece but I’m not an idiot and I know it’s a piece. The last entries are 2 a.m., 1 a.m., 12 a.m., 1 a.m., 1:06 a.m…
I try not to work like, ‘I have this idea and now I have to make it.’ That’s dull and it ends up being really contrived. I’m still trying to figure this out, but I think that a lot of my work isn’t so much art as a byproduct of the lifestyle of what I’m trying to do. My daily life. Me finding flattened cups on the road. The collection becomes part of what I did during the day.
The ‘a thousand times fuck off‘ pieces come from going to get a cup of coffee and the person in front of you can’t make their mind and then they want something with soy and then they pull out their credit card to pay for something and then their phone rings and they make that, ‘Just a second’ motion. It’s not a ‘fuck off’ like I’m going to scream it off the mountaintop. It’s this quiet ‘fuck off.’
My studio is two rooms–the idea is to have a dirty room and a clean room but really it’s a not-so-dirty room. I mostly weld in the darker room. I’m trying to change it into just a metal space because I’ll be working the grinder, shooting sparks all over the place, and it’s not so good for the drawings. My ‘flogging a dead horse‘ I do over there.
A lot of the time my metal work will be the support system for my collections. Eventually they’ll be a hundred clock pieces and they’ll be on the right kind of shelves that I’ve made. Even these silly little shelves here, they’re part of the piece. I also made the lights for MKG127. I made a table for someone. Someone was in for wedding bands.
There’s these great artist who have abandoned their studios to comment on studios becoming the ivory tower and how the artist emerges from it haggard to bring forth the goods. I don’t think it has to be that sacred. This is where I come to make my stuff–but I’m also making it out there too, picking things up off the road.
–Ken Nicol, as told to Studio Beat
Photos by Courtney Vokey
*”If you want to make a quotation where I say ‘cocksucker’ one hundred times, you can do that.” -KN
Visit Ken’s website here.