By Skye Wellington
“Cherry Blossom And Winter Sky” by NH (Nicole Pon Horvath), acrylic on canvas, 2010
When you’re at work you dream of being on holiday, when you’re on holiday you worry about the work that’s piling up. Living in the moment is easier said than done. We need to be told to be mindful like we need someone to tell us to lose a few pounds. We know. The issue for most of us is about seizing the moment and just doing it. Or not doing anything at all, as is the case in the practice of mindfulness. But what will stop us in our tracks so that we make time to take stock? Meet an artist who is creating paintings that inspire us to stay still and reflect.
“I think I must have been Japanese in a former life,” says Nicole Pon Horvath, the French born, Algerian-raised artist who mesmerises with her beautiful visions of nature. It was pure chance that led to the discovery that Nicole shared a real affinity for the nuanced detail that features in Japanese art. A work relocation for her husband saw Nicole moving to Japan in 1989 and suddenly having time to pursue her childhood passion of using her hands for creative pursuits. And the first thing she noticed about Japan was the awesome colour of the sky. “It was just so beautiful. It reminded me of Algeria.
“I’d already begun taking photos of my surroundings. Not just typical Japanese scenes, but close up shots of foliage and small details. I felt as if I’d arrived somewhere I was supposed to be. A feeling of ‘oh, I know’. That brings about a certain calm, a peace. I wanted to capture those moments and be able to recall them later on,” Nicole explains. So she set about doing what anyone that finds themselves on a journey might do: she found a guide, a master – her very own sensei.
Nicole’s teacher, Shoko Ohta was a classically-trained master, complete with kimono dress-code who encouraged Nicole to work only in black and white until she felt ready to graduate to colour. “I discovered I was really drawn to Japanese art. The layers upon layers of workmanship really appealed to me. But it’s a very unusual process to learn how to execute it.”
All the while that Nicole was treading this path, acquiring knowledge on how to perfectly render a moment in time over several years, she was learning how to be.
“After a few years, I returned to our house in Provence. I had this urge to cut myself off from everything and everyone. I needed to find my own voice, my own style. I didn’t see anyone, I didn’t take calls, I didn’t watch television.” Like a butterfly, she emerged a couple of weeks later with a unique point of view and several paintings that formed the basis of her first exhibition. Her sensei, now 90 years old, was the first person to arrive to see the collection and gave her approval, not in so many words, but by purchasing a painting.
“Old Plum Tree” by NH (Nicole Horvath), acrylic on canvas, 2011
At play in Nicole’s work now is the stunning minimalism apparent in many Japanese art-forms. For all their love of detail, there is a very pared back nature to the way they treat a subject, allowing the viewer to rest and breathe. “As my audience grew, and I noticed people appreciating what I was creating I realised that depicting these moments meant something to other people too; that my paintings served to offer viewers some serenity,” she explains.
“Elegant Rebirth” by NH (Nicole Pon Horvath), acrylic on canvas, 2012
After circumstances brought Nicole to Singapore, she wondered what she was going to paint without that Japanese sky surrounding her. But not long after her arrival, she felt compelled to paint. And the scenes that ended up on canvas were not of Singapore, but of Japan. “The meaningful things I had experienced in Japan were living on in my memory and I was able to continue to paint the special moments I had witnessed. I like to think that this ability is my homage to Japan. A thank you to the country for all I had learnt there. Not just my painting skills and discovery of my own technique, but how to exist in a moment. When I’m painting that is what I am doing.”
To see more of Nicole’s work, contact the friendly and informative peeps at Addicted Art Gallery.