Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

For those of readers who were asking for inspiring examples of no-grout mosaics, I give you the mosaics of Canadian artist Terry Nicholls.

I am amazed by Terry’s work and its continuity. It is a very focused exploration of the mosaic medium as a fine art.

There is a sense of space that Terry creates by keeping landscapes wide open and compensating for the absence of figurative detail with increased texture and pattern.

These patterned and textured areas suggest fine repetitive detail in landscape elements seen at a distance: waves on the ocean, grass-covered hills, etc.

Terminus mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Terminus mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls

The patterns of color variegation and texture are often severe to the point of abstraction yet they are not overwhelming. They help suggest the image being rendered as much as they call attention to their own abstract nature.

That is a fine line to walk. For me, it shows a high level of artistic judgment.

Spring Cape Spear mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Spring Cape Spear mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls

An Exception to the Rule

I cringe giving artistic advice because there are are exceptions to every rule. I love it when people email me counter examples of general recommendations.

That’s another reason I like Terry’s landscape mosaics. They are the opposite of what is generally recommended in compositions: avoid empty areas and increase visual interest by filling the space with figures. For example: put a driftwood log on that beach. put some cows in the field. etc.

Terry creates visual interest with texture, pattern, and variegation, but he avoids figurative clutter.

Note the “emptiness” of the lower left foreground of the image below. It isn’t empty. It’s a carpet of vegetation down below the vantage point. It’s lack of detail helps suggest the height of the vantage point.

The Drokes mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
The Drokes mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls

Terry’s intent is to conjure the vast empty places of the Canadian wilds, and I think he succeeds very well, to the extent that even a mood and a bracing coldness are conveyed.

Portal mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Portal mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls

A Sense of Place

I think there is a recognizable style and mood in Terry’s work that is very much inspired by living in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

Reclamation mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Reclamation mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Iced In mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Iced In mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
The Wind Come Up mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
The Wind Come Up mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Winter mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
Winter mosaic by Canadian artist Terry Nicholls
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7 responses to “Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls”

  1. Wow, she is good!!! A great example for me. I love the way she puts something in the foreground to catch the eye so you can explore the depths. Wonderful!!!!!
    Thank you, Joe.
    Lizette Murray.

  2. In The Wind Come Up, is that a use of white grout as part of the actual mosaic image to create waves or patterns in the water? If so, I think it’s brilliant. It makes the grout much more than just a unifying element. Nicholls’ work is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

    • It is amazing how he used the white grout gap between pieces of shattered safety glass. It creates that familiar net-like pattern of foam/bubbles that is seen on water where there are different cells of upwelling. The net of foam is the boundary between different cells of upwelling current. It is artistic genius. first to see that detail in nature, and second to come up with a way of rendering it using the grout gap between different pieces of shattered safety glass.

      I don’t think I was overstating when I said that Terry’s work is a focused exploration of the stylistic possibilities of mosaic.

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