Nickola Pottinger: fi mi heart full at Deanna Evans Projects , NYC (Review)

Installation view, Nickola Pottinger: fi mi heart full at Deanna Evans Projects, NYC, 2022
Installation view, Nickola Pottinger: fi mi heart full at Deanna Evans Projects, NYC, 2022

Nickola Pottinger: fi mi heart full at Deanna Evans Projects
February 25 – April 9, 2022
373 Broadway, E15, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10013

In this solo show, Nickola Pottinger is offering a group of excellent wall reliefs, whose exterior texture consists of many elements. Born in Jamaica, Pottinger studied at Cooper Union, receiving her degree in 2008. She now lives in Brooklyn. “fi mi heart full,” the title of the show, is given in Jamaican patois; it means. In English, “My heart is full” (all the individual pieces are given titles in patois). The works themselves are remarkable wall art: organic shapes whose pebble-like exterior, usually gray in color, are the fusion of unexpected components: found cardboard and paper, pieces of earlier works, broken ceramics, even random materials dug up in the backyard of the house where she lives. Pigment and pastels are then incorporated into the matrix making up the body of the work, giving the forms bits of color. The sculptures not only work well as examples of abstract design, but they also align with the physical particulars of urban neighborhoods, enabling Pottinger to acknowledge the nonobjective tradition her art partially belongs to, as well as making use of the detritus of the locale in which she lives.

Nickola Pottinger, ‘ben di tree wen it young‘ 2022, paper pulp, earth, watercolor, branch and findings, 38 x 35 x 1 inches.

In ben di tree wen it young (2022), Pottinger has a rough gray background, with abstract effects covering much of its surface: two question mark-like shapes facing each other, with, presumably, creatures—the form on the right looks like a bird—underneath the curve of the seeming punctuation mark. Bridging the top of the question marks, a brown horizontal, much like a branch, supports a short row of rich blue, angled squares. The effect of the relief is based on the beautiful, complex surface it presents, like all the pieces in the show. Mostly abstract in its design, ben di tree wen it young might suggest a tree with a curled canopy just as much as it implies a pattern created for city life—its combination of concrete and misshapen trees. In nuh bruk nuh square (2022), Pottinger continues her innovative dialogue with texture and rough form. Two white stripes of material bent in the middle and apparently embellished with the forms of dark birds, act as constraints for the oval shapes. The first of these shapes is colored lime green, with two orange circles and a dark, pebbled mass in the center. The circles extend a line that becomes a group of flag-like orange shapes, set against a dark background. The lowest oval, its color a very pale green with white overtones, contains three abstract squares, their interiors variously embellished.  This work veers in the direction of the ornamental but also presents a sophisticated feeling for design.

Nickola Pottinger, ‘nuh bruk nuh square‘ 2022, paper pulp, earth, watercolor, mosaics, sorrel, oil pastel, and black soap and fi mi other tings, 46 x 36 x 1 inches.
Nickola Pottinger, ‘belly full‘ 2022, paper pulp, sorrel, oil pastel and watercolor, 24 x 22 inches.

The last piece to be discussed, belly full (2022), is a paper-pulp work that could be seen as a torso lacking head, arms, and legs, and divided in half by a brown belt. The upper half of the form is gray, with an abstract linear design in the middle, much like a diamond shape. Two brown circles flank the form. Beneath the brown horizontal separating the parts we see a gray background, mostly covered by an inchoate mass of brown. This sculpture, like the rest of the group, could easily lend itself to a figurative reading, but the interpretation may be more of our own invention. Pottinger’s materials, meticulously used, suggest that the elements of art can be made of substances not usually ascribed to visual expression. And her attractive designs, at times seemingly something real and sometimes not, transform her coarse, simple materials into eloquent statements. The show, then, finds inspiration in the visual rhythms of New York, home to many, many artists from other countries. Pottinger’s gift is to have understood these rhythms extremely well, creating memorable art from her experience.

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Jonathan Goodman

Jonathan Goodman is an art writer based in New York. For more than thirty years he has written about contemporary art–for such publications as Art in America, the Brooklyn Rail, Whitehot Magazine, Sculpture, and fronterad (an Internet publication based in Madrid). He currently teaches contemporary art writing and thesis essay writing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

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