Woven Waters: Interview with Niki Medlik

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Breydon Water in Great Yarmouth isn’t the picture-perfect postcard location which is usually used to advertise the Broads. Artist and designer, Niki Medlik, chose the area for that reason. She finds inspiration and beauty where the impact of man impinges on the natural environment.

Niki Medlik
Niki Medlik

“My work is about the juxtapositions and contrasts of man and nature, ancient and contemporary. I see beauty in the way a discarded shopping trolley emerges from the mudflats, rusted and dripping with vibrant green seaweed; in the textures and colours of the graffiti under Breydon Bridge where the litter has bleached and rusted to subtle hues. And just in case the contrasts are not obvious enough, a white dove nests there and flies out as an exquisite reminder...  I visit regularly, and each time I return with fresh material and ideas for my printmaking. I have been exploring the print processes suggested to me as the weather and seasons change recently screenprinting directly with mud from a visit at low tide. Natural methods of chance like this can have far more exciting results than those I try to create.”Niki will be producing 2 prints and a sound piece for the Woven Waters exhibition in the Hostry in December. She has been exploring the contrast of man’s imposed neon scarlet shipping posts, symbols and signs on the bridge and in the water, with the gentle tones and organic shapes naturally present and traditionally associated with the Norfolk landscape.

“I suddenly become aware of murmurations of birds in the sky against an ever-changing backdrop of moving lilac and purple clouds, which will take my breath away. This is a reminder of my own sometimes difficult balance between graphic design work and my artistic practice.” Visually she has emulated it by screenprinting arrows in wild fluoro colours on deep mud-grey monoprints.

Niki Medlik workshop
Niki Medlik's workshop

She was inspired to return to her MA work in sound by the siren warning that the bridge section of the A47 was due to open.

“All becomes quiet. Engines get turned off and you can hear the rare birds out on the mudflats, almost mimicking the warning, with the sounds of the water and boats coming through. Then a different bridge siren starts up, motorbikes and juggernauts roar into life, the A47 with its pink candy-stripes comes down, and the cacophony of Great Yarmouth resumes.”At home in Norwich, Niki’s home studio is the perfect creative escape, (her design work is done elsewhere - at a desk at the top of a building housing the independent bookshop she works closely with) the walls hung with all manner of inspiration. Ghost nets and plastic detritus rescued from Breydon water hang alongside pressed seaweed and beautiful plant specimens. A blue and white striped jug sits beside an empty Colman’s mustard tin heaving with pens and brushes. The diary which charts her journeys through the landscape is a mixture of different print techniques and experiments with unconventional materials. Paintings and screenprints using mud; monoprints where she has run discarded fishing wire through the press, and experiments using seawater-drenched fabric for rust prints from the jetty and shopping trolleys.

Niki Medlik works
Niki Medlik for Woven Waters

Looking through the window of her Norwich town house, a church spire can be glimpsed emerging through the roof tops, framed by a room bedecked in pot plants. Even at home, nature meets the man-made and the two are comfortable in each other’s company. Her work often finds links between people and landscapes. She is currently creating an installation for a beach hut at the First Light Festival on Lowestoft beach. Hers will be about fish and the effects of plastic and litter left on the beach. It is yet another art project set in an urban environment with its focus turned to the human impact on nature.

Next month: Kate Walker

Last month: Caroline Fisher

Want to find out more about Woven Waters? Woven Waters is an art project led by the Broads Authority as part of their Heritage Lottery funded initiative Water, Mills and Marshes. A selection of local artists are creating work inspired by areas of the Broads and will be showcasing them in the Hostry in Norwich in December. The aim is to inspire the public to visit the areas the artists were inspired by and to encourage them to make their own art inspired by the Broads National Park. Each month a different artist is profiled on the Visit the Broads blog.