The first in Nichols' series of Variations, a body of work including sculpture and performances, produced during a year-long artist residency at the Florence Trust. Nichols produced two performances at the Trust, the first in collaboration with vilolinist Matthew James Kelly and the second with guitarist Luca Somigli and drummer Argyris Thomoglou.
During her residency at the Trust, Nichols took down her studio walls, laying them on the floor to create a kind of open stage in the centre of her neo-Gothic church studio. Grazing and collecting discarded objects in and around the shared studio, including a circular gold-fabric encased photographic reflector, fragmented grids of porcelain tiles and sawdust, she made continually evolving drawings in space with these found materials. Inspired by the incidental sounds of these objects as they made contact with each other, carried by the vaulted brick walls and their rich, long reverberations, Nichols invited a violinist, a drummer and a guitarist, to create live responses to what they could see and hear.
Experimenting with how new compositions could be triggered by a musical score in a live performance, as well as using the found objects as instruments, Nichols became interested in how sound could un-fix or destabilise the space of sculpture.
The Florence Trust produced a catalogue to document the work of its twelve selected artists in residence, for which the Trust's Curator, Ashlee Conery, contributed the following text about Nichols' work:
'The cycle of making, collapsing and exhibiting forms the core of Claire Nichols’ practice. Interested in the designed sites of the studio and the gallery, she begins with the existing material of these physical, temporal and hypothetical environments.
During her residency at Despina, in Rio de Janeiro, Nichols began to consider her position within this short-lived space of production and display. Inhabiting the city and residency as an observer attuned to the rhythms of transitory materials, off-cuts or refuse, her work began to engage with temporality and ‘thingness’, contradicting methodologically the expected outcomes or ‘use of space’ within such an environment. An exercise she has continued at the Florence Trust, Nichols began by taking down the walls of her studio, and gathering the discarded matter of the place, and its past and present inhabitants.
Over the course of these two occupancies, her exploration of ‘thingness’ has involved exchanges with estranged bits of glass and fabric, as well as overlooked masonry patterns in a public square. They become notes or gestures read by dancers and musicians whom Nichols invites to engage with them as they would sheet music or stage direction. As her ‘inviting’ and ‘borrowing’ becomes routine to her fellow residents, things appear within her space that she did not select, but which are thought to belong with her. Without diminishing her unilateral position within the composition, she gives agency to the objects within her environment by inviting this constellation of actants. Periodically Nichols takes down, removes or paints sections, accepting the outcome of intersections along the way. Describing the work as an organism, rather than a sculpture or installation, she poignantly evades a clear ending. Living and developing, the precarious balances erected and exchanged within the space seem to mirror the delicate ecosystem of the residency. The work is, as the artist, in constant evolution. Existing beyond brief performances or fixed bodies, within unexpected and ongoing collaborations with other artists, materials or geographies, that grow organically.
Small books of drawings that behave more like dialogue than document, between her and her assemblages, sit quietly at the border. A site for articulating and exploring her ideas around improvisation, she treats the space of the book as an echo of her interventions, each folio a chamber reverberating and riffing on traces of the marks made on the previous pages.'
- Ashlee Conery