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

Nicky Coutts is an artist, writer and MRes pathway leader in the School of Arts and Humanities at the Royal College of Art. Her work looks at animals and how it might yet be possible to enter meaningful exchanges with them. Interspecies encounters, and explorations of the knowledge they contain, feature strongly in both her visual work and writing. Also key are the principals of mimicry and imitation that reach across and reconfigure definitions of the animal, the non-human animal and the inanimate worlds.

Coutts has contributed texts to a range of publications including academic journals and experimental writing platforms. Recent texts include a journal article considering collaboration as an interspecies form, written with Vanessa Ewan, Senior Lecturer in Actor Movement at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. (Coutts, N. & Ewan V., (2018) Giraffe Time, Journal of Photography and Culture, London: Taylor and Francis) and forthcoming is the book chapter ‘Animal, Print, Suicide’ in Print matters: an anthology of critical texts on contemporary prints and printmaking since 1986 to be published by Manchester University Press later in 2018.

Her work has been shown internationally at venues including: Künsthalle Mainz, Germany, Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen, Youkobo Artspace, Tokyo, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou and as part of ‘Rencontres Internationales: New Cinema and Contemporary Art’, at Centre Pompidou, Paris; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin and Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid. Over the past few years Coutts has been working on a joint project with Emscherkünst, Germany, Oriel Davies Gallery and Canal and River Trust, Wales through which she produced the video work ‘Canal Opera’ (2017) involving a performance filmed live along the length of canals in both countries.


> Curriculum vitae
> Artist website
> Exhibitions at the gallery: My Previous Life as an Ape  2015, Millions Like Us  2010, The Discovery of Slowness  2008
> Editions: Mimics series 1  2015
All Rise
2015  HD video  7 minutes and 30 seconds
Nicky Coutts, 'Mimics' series 1, 2015, photo etching 
Mimics series 1
2015  photo etching on Somerset paper  13 x 17cm   edition of 5 + 1 A/P
see more from this series

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

Nicky Coutts, Mimics  series 2, 2015   
Mimics series 2
2015  5 court drawings by former court artist Sian Frances  installation view by Oskar Proctor
Nicky Coutts, Mimics  series 3, 2015   
Mimics series 3
2015  c-type print mounted on aluminium   100 x 66cm
Nicky Coutts, Under the Weather
Under the Weather
2014  installation  Iverewe garden photograph by Ewen Weatherspoon
Nicky Coutts, Fanny Looking, 2013    Nicky Coutts, 18 Holes with Fanny, 2013
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 Mind of Others, 2008
A Tower in the Mind of Others
2008  garden sheds
Nicky Coutts, Estates (Highgreen), 2009          
Estates (Highgreen)
2009  C-Type print on aluminium
Nicky Coutts, Estates (Longleat), 2007, c-type print on aluminium
Estates (Longleat)
2007  C-Type print on aluminium
Nicky Coutts, Island of storms, At sea series, 2007
At Sea series
2007  Inkjet print  840 x 594 mm