Nicole Reneé Pantano is an American painter and photographer living in Liverpool, England. Paraxis asked her a few questions about her work:
Why are you drawn to walls?
It all began when I moved from Florida to Liverpool and found myself walking, or flaneuring, through a “city of old walls” (as opposed to driving through cities of glass and metal). At first I was put off by some of the deteriorating walls and facades I saw during my daily walks. Eventually, however, I began to appreciate the decay I encountered, looking closer at death, and suddenly I found a certain unique beauty in the remnants, the bits and pieces of history. I was primarily attracted to the textures, layers and colors, as well as the underlying histories, and soon appreciated them as potential blueprints, potential forms of/for art. And now I’m obsessed, as you can see.
What materials do use to create your paintings?
I try to use as many natural materials as possible. For example, most of the wall paintings incorporate acrylic paints, sand, dirt, rust, soot, pumice, and a few secret natural ingredients and mixtures.
When I look at your paintings for long enough I start to see landscapes, fingerprints, fragments of faces, maps. Do you see images as you create them?
Not really. I see and work with pure textures, nothing more. I “sculpt” the textures, digging down, into and through these textures, removing and adding, until I’m happy with the overall feel and composition of the painting. There are, of course, plenty of images one might see, like in a Rorschach test or a Jackson Pollock painting. But I can’t see them, unfortunately.
Which visual artists most inspire you?
I feed off artists whose aesthetics are close to mine. A few contemporary artists I admire are Angela de la Cruz, Steve Javiel, Sigita Daugule and Alexis Harding.
Do other artforms inspire you (eg books, film, music)?
Yes, anything, but I’m mostly inspired by everyday things and objects, like rusted bins, oil stains, cracks in the sidewalk, a piece of distressed wood, etc.
Are your paintings based on real walls? And if so, are there any lost walls, ones you want to capture but haven't managed to?
Most are, yes. During my walks and travels, I take a lot of pictures of walls, and sometimes I try to recreate a specific wall, like a certain Swiss wall I saw during the summer, or old Sicilian walls, which are spectacular. At times I recreate the entire wall, at other times I focus on one section or fragment of a wall, or simply the colors. In the end, all of my walls are lost, like me, I suppose, waiting for someone or something to remind them that each crack is a sign of life, of beauty, a sign of home.
What was the last thing you created and what are you working on now?
Lately I’ve been working with skins and paper. I’m trying to mold paint in a different way to create sculpture-like or 3D paintings on canvas (when I try to recreate water-damaged walls, for example). I’m also working on a haiku series of miniature paintings inspired by the wabi-sabi aesthetic, beauty that is imperfect and impermanent and incomplete.