Nicky Coutts
Nicky Coutts, Canal Opera
Nicky Coutts  Canal Opera  2017  HD video  20 mins
Supported by Addo, Arts Council Wales , The Canal and River Trust and Emscherkünst.


Nicky Coutts studied for an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 1992 and completed a PhD in Photography at the Royal College of Art in 2001. Her work has been exhibited at public venues that include Kunsthalle Mainz, Germany; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Hå gamle prestegard, Norway; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London.

Recent projects have been developed as part of residency and fellowship programmes at Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Germany; Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo; Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC), Northumberland, UK and Rondo, Austria. Writing, publishing and artists’ books also form an important part of her practice. She was formerly a commissioning editor of Make, Magazine of Women’s Art, an associate editor of Coil: Journal of the Moving Image and, as postdoctoral fellow in Fine Art, instigated a series of collaborative publications at Middlesex University under the imprint Confluens.

> Curriculum vitae

> Artist website

> Exhibitions at the gallery: My Previous Life as an Ape  2015, Millions Like Us  2010, The Discovery of Slowness  2008



Mimics series 1
2015  photo etching
13 x 17cm

Mimicry is a powerful tool for survival. Like chameleons, octopuses change colour to match their backgrounds when sensing predator or prey; the harmless milk snake mimics the colouring of the venomous coral snake to ward off other animals; and the foureye butterflyfish has dark spots resembling eyes on its body, confusing potential predators. The latter is an example of ‘automimicry,’ when one body part of an animal mimics another, giving the animal a better chance of surviving an attack. Nicky Coutts Mimics series 1 speaks to this type of mimicry, using imagery of mimetic animals to evoke ideas of the similarities between animal and human use of mimesis when resorting to manipulation to survive.

A series of five photo etchings on Somerset paper, the work presents animals superimposed onto different photographs taken of the outdoor area at Lincoln’s Inn, the UK’s largest concentration of lawyers’ chambers. Owl butterflies grasp onto a set of wrought iron railings, spider-web like in the intricacy of their metalwork. An oriental flying gurnard glides above the surface of the grass; the air its water, the ground its seabed, while a sun bittern moves across the same grass, outstretched wings reminiscent of a judge’s robes. A serval looks towards the building, its attention focused, waiting, and two foureyed butterflyfish float across the surface of a bush. Each of these animals has eyespot markings, their automimicry creating a sense of omnipotence in this judicial environment. They become even more mimetic in Coutts’ depiction of them, flattened against the background in their black and white camouflage. There is a parallel drawn between the mimesis of the animals and the mimesis of the lawyers residing in the chambers here; a profession where alertness and the ability to camouflage intentions and adapt to quickly changing surroundings for the sake of one’s (or one’s clients) protection is fundamental. Coutts underlines the intrinsic instinct to shapeshift, present in humans and animals alike. - Tess Charnley



All Rise

2015  HD Video
7'30 minutes


series 1  2015  photo etching
13 x 17cm


series 2  2015  court drawings by court artist Sian Frances


series 3  2015  c-type print mounted on aluminium
100 x 66cm


Under the Weather
2014  a shelter at Inverewe gardens  Scotland
photograph by Ewen Weatherspoon



18 Holes with Fanny

2013  series of 18 Caran D'ache pencil drawing on coloured paper  29.7 x 21 cm


Nicky Coutts A Tower in the Minds of Others 2008
A Tower in the Minds of Others
2008, garden sheds


The Empire of Lights
2007, video, 18mn


2007, video, 10mn


The Discovery of Slowness (An Attempt at Drowning and An Attempt at Disappearance)
2007, video, 26mn



At Sea series
2007, Inkjet print, 840 x 594 mm



Estates (Longleat)
2007, C-type print on aluminium, 155 x 123 cm


A City Hunts a Murderer
2006, Video


Another Land 3
2006, Black and white photograph on aluminium, tryptich, 150 x 230 cm



2003, C-type print on aluminium, 48.8 x 56.5 cm


Dark Day
2003, C-type print on aluminium, 38 x 74.5 cm


2003, C-type print on aluminium