Born 29 May 1980, Nick Gentry is a British graduate of Central St Martins in London. As part of a generation that grew up with floppy disks, VHS tapes, polaroids and cassettes, he is inspired by the impact of internet culture. Drawing on recycled technological relics as the grounds for his portraits, Gentry creates a conversation between digital and analogue processes. Obsolete data formats are combined to form new identities, with a unique blend of personal information locked within.
Known for his unique, subversive form of portraiture that treats the human form not as a subject in itself, but as a void to be filled with rich historic material. In his art, Gentry questions the fundamental relationship of the human being to both our created world and what we call reality.
We meet the artist and uncover his story here.
Art has always been my way of expressing myself. Some of my earliest memories are of drawing pictures of faces and characters. I feel really thankful that art has consistently been there throughout my life.
I grew up in St Albans, which is a historic city with Roman ruins and lots of old buildings including the oldest pub in England. I think that growing up in that place instilled in me a sense of history. Traces of past existence are all around us and it has inspired much of my work.
I went to Liverpool Art School for my Degree and Central St Martins in London to study for my Masters. I’m very grateful for the quality and variety of teaching and I learned a great deal from all my tutors and fellow students. Just being in that environment amongst likeminded people was the key element for me. It is all part of nurturing a curious outlook, which allows the outside world to permeate into the artworks.
I worked for a short while in a factory, making Perspex retail displays with my dad and brother. I’ve also worked in a supermarket stacking shelves. These experiences helped me to appreciate that I had a choice of future and it made me even more determined to become an artist.
I have a guitar and piano at home and I like to play around with those. I love music and it would be nice to become more skilled in that area.
Around 8am I will make myself some green tea and head into the studio. I try to make time to meditate and do some yoga if I can. I get the radio on or some music and just get into it. When I am deeply focused the sense of time passing is diminished.
Those first few hours of the day before lunch are the most precious creative time for me. All admin gets done much later on.
My studio is at the end of the garden. I have big sliding doors and I love the calmness of the view outside. The sounds of birds, fresh air and leaves blowing in the wind helps to calm everything down.
When the need arises I can close the door and put music on. Music stimulates the emotions, so creating the right atmosphere helps me to get into the mood for working. Being in an isolated building helps me feel focused where I know I won’t be affecting others if I want to listen to loud music.
I have an old fleece thing that I’ve kept in the studio for about 10 years, but generally I like to change what I am wearing each time. I’m pretty careful but eventually everything gets a bit of paint on it.
I like to use obsolete technology in my work. It’s an open process and I invite people to send me their old materials to embed within the works. I’ve been fortunate enough connect with so many people around the world. It’s inspiring that all these people want to be involved.
I’m not precious about particular objects or equipment. If something is not available I’m always happy to adapt and find a new way. Tea, biscuits and chocolate are pretty much essential though!
I’m fascinated by the feeling of time passing. Of course we increasingly record so much of our lives today, but I try to capture the feeling of it. Technology is changing the way we live and we seem to be struggling to blend that into our natural world. The environment is important to me and I hope that by reusing materials I can inspire others to think creatively about waste.
I’ve made pieces that give me satisfaction for different reasons. However as an artist looking to continually develop my work, it is important for me to not fixate too much on anything that I have done in the past. It’s useful to look back and reflect at times, but really those artworks are just markers in time.
Francis Bacon is someone that had a brutal start in life. That’s clearly reflected in his work and I admire his courage of expression regarding that. He took something that was dark and negative and channelled it into works of raw vitality. Of course, Leonardo Da Vinci has always been an inspiration to me in so many ways. I have studied his compositions more than anything else and will always be captivated by his work.
Olafur Eliasson, Marina Abramovic, Agustina Woodgate, Christopher Noulton, Matthew Stone, David Shrigley.
We have a lot of original artworks on the wall by my wife, Sinem. She works prolifically as a book illustrator and cover designer. Her artworks bring a lot of joy and colour to our home. We also have no shortage of bedtime stories for our son Frank, too.
Olafur Eliasson 'In Real Life' at the Tate Modern. I’ve really missed going to see art exhibitions over the past year and I find that online shows still have some way to go in replicating the real thing.
It doesn’t feel as straightforward to think ahead as it used to. I hope that the world finds peace and we can really start to respect nature more. Personally with my art I’d like to reflect whatever changes will come our way. It’s certainly an interesting and exciting time to be an artist in a world of such change and inspiration.
I am planning to have a solo exhibition at Opera Gallery in London later this year. Aside from that, I would like to show more works in public settings.
I have enjoyed working with WWF on projects that raise awareness about protecting wild animals and conserving nature. I hope to do more of those types of collaborations in the future.
The main challenge is to keep abreast of the increasing pace of change in the world. The flow of media and data is increasing all the time, but of course there is only so much information a human being can absorb. Traditionally artists have had much more time to experience moments and create responses to current affairs. There are so many more images in the world, which makes it harder to create something that will cut through and capture peoples attention for longer than a few seconds.
Look out and look in.
Live in the moment. Explore the edges. If you are curious about life then simply living teaches you everything you need. Be patient and create a positive situation that allows you to make a long term commitment to your art.
At a young age, my mother would make sure that I was free in my mind to be whatever I wanted to be. This allowed me to trust myself and be independent in my thoughts and actions. It not a specific quote, but her timely words and support was amongst the most valuable things that I have ever been given.
Social Media has allowed my art to be seen by so many people. However, it is becoming clear that new technology is a mixed picture and we do need to find better ways to incorporate it into our lives. Is it getting wildly out of our control - or can we maintain our use of it as a tool? I don't think there is anyone that truly understands precisely what is going on anymore, which is a first for humanity. It could turn out to be the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced.