Nick was born and raised in London, England. Much of the artwork he produced there
was fueled by the banality of everyday spaces, particularly the elevators, lobbies
and corridors of tower blocks and public spaces.
After completing graduate studies at the Birmingham Art Institute, Nick moved to the
U.S in 1999, where he taught at Florida State University for two years before moving
His current works reflect on modernist architectural spaces, images of power, class
and materialism that represent fears about existence and isolation. His seductive
depictions of artificial utopias, create tension and anxiety that remind us of the
foreboding doubt that lingers only slightly below the surface of our desires.
NICK POTTER’S CONSTRUCTED UTOPIAS QUESTION MODERNISM’S ALLURE
U.K.- born Nick Potter has rendered a world not in sci-fi tropes with flying cars
and plagued with technological missteps and incessant climate-induced acid rain, but
an even more deflating present-day Modernist noir, rooted less in fantasy than in
Text by Aaron Collins
For Lifestyle Magazine – December 15, 2019
Looking at Fresno-based Nick Potter’s mildly dystopian paintings on view in his first
one-person show at the Fresno Art Museum in November, one might recall that this milestone
was the setting for Ridley Scott’s futuristic Bladerunner (1982). But unlike in the
acclaimed Philip K. Dick-inspired film, U.K.-born Potter has rendered a world not
in sci-fi tropes with flying cars and plagued with technological missteps and incessant
climate-induced acid rain, but an even more deflating present-day Modernist noir,
rooted less in fantasy than in convincing realism. Utopia wasn’t so great after all.
Potter’s vision is replete with unfulfilled longings like those found in Edward Hopper’s
pre-war trademark works, with their yearnings and isolation. Noted Hong Kong-based
photographer Michael Wolf’s engulfing, overbearing modernism comes to mind, sharing
a culprit in common with their towering structures obliterating sun and sky. But Potter
makes a vaguely guilty pleasure of his Miesian fetish. He echoes Hopper’s pre-war
emotional stance, but extends it beyond into post-WWII ennui, questioning Modern architecture’s
role in our contemporary malaise, questioning how well Modernism’s gambit panned out.
The works in Nick Potter: Constructed Utopias function in a similarly dislocating
if more subtle way as Scott’s unsettling cinematic masterpiece, with its (then-somewhat
atypical for sci-fi) agglomerated historical styles and accumulated grit. Comparatively,
Potter’s world is more pristine and closer to home, even as it reflects our times
in which we are seemingly on the verge of one disaster or another.
Modernism may have flourished in the present age, enjoying a resurgence
in the oughts with its bright pristine Instagrammable surfaces, whose 20th-century
predecessors may have aged well enough (if not its various theoretical certitudes).
However, in Potter’s slightly foreboding canvases, it is an architecture that has
seemingly alienated — not enlivened — its intended occupants. Structures are plucked
from context and placed on plinths like specimens in works like Differing Fading Systems
(2016) with its provocative reflection, and Order and Progress (2019), both which
invite viewers to examine them in isolation as if quarantined, pathogens at risk of
infecting their surroundings.
Potter’s works function like cinematic sets in their own right, akin to the ’80s psychodramas
of David Salle and Eric Fischl (whose work Potter often teaches about as an art professor
at California State University Fresno). While Potter clearly has love for the Modernist
style, his oil paintings are often devoid of human presence and, to some extent, narrative
— leaving one to ponder whether these venues’ disappointments were perhaps rooted
in human folly, earnest but ultimately failed attempts that have been found unworthy,
not uninhabited momentarily but perhaps permanently. Their simmering unease is palpable,
but the causes are wisely left to the viewer’s instincts. Here in Potter World, ambiguity
Some of Potter’s works directly recall David Hockney’s ’60s-era good life Southern
California paintings, with their swimming pools and view properties rendered as optimistically
as any art of the period (“advertisements for California,” the younger Brit says).
Hockney is an acknowledged influence on Potter. But while Hockney’s stance can be
seen as a deliberately cheery contradiction to that era’s social unrest, Potter’s
nocturnal settings bear the tensions of the present, albeit obliquely. Like Hockney,
he courts the same voyeuristic quality, that of peering into a privileged world. If
Hockney revels as the quintessential bon vivant, Potter portrays a sober, grimmer
outlook in synch with our own particularly grim times.
“I looked at (Hockney’s) work a lot when I was at college, and although my work was
far from anything similar to his in those days, I found his portraiture really interesting,
ranging from his working-class parents to those living in luxury, like Mr. and Mrs.
Clark and Percy, which feels like a modern day version of Gainsborough,” Potter said.
“But one thing that stuck with me more than anything regarding his work over the years
were the California swimming pool and art collector portrait paintings. Hockney’s
California work feels like an advertisement for the American Dream, for modernist