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Narrowing the gap between artist and public:
An interview with Peter Pracownik and Nicola-Clare Lydon

Nicola-Clare Lydon and Peter Pracownik  share a gallery, “Another Green World”, based in historic Tintagel, Cornwall. Both work in a number of media and share a common vision. Colin Duriez interviewed them for the Festival in the Shire journal, asking them about their unique collaborative partnership and the roots of their fantasy art.


Peter:

Peter, after art college I understand that you went into music. Why did you change course like this?

P: Actually it was just that I was doing both; they go together so well.

What later made you leave what was a well-established life of a musician to start painting professionally?

P: I never really left; I was in and out really and that’s how it was.

As well as your other artwork, was it a natural course to create album covers for The Grateful Dead, Ronnie Wood and others?

P: I never did Ronnie’s album cover, I painted a portrait for him of him and his son Jesse, but yes, as far as the many other album covers go, being that music and art came together for me, it was only natural to be painting the covers as well as making music.

Why do you think your painting was so immediately popular?

P: If I ever find the answer to that one I’ll let you know!!!

How did you first come across Tolkien’s writings and how important is his inspiration to you as an artist?

P: I was very young, ten or eleven I think. His writings captivated me totally, and the obsession has remained the same ever since.

Take us through your end of millennium piece, “Eclipse”.

P: I came up with the idea of using planetary influences and the philosophies of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543). Copernicus was the first man to argue that the earth rotated around the sun and on its own axis. Before this it was thought that the earth was the centre of the universe. Although his ideas were slammed at the time by the science commission as being ridiculous, when his theory was approved in the nineteenth century as being the light of genius, it fundamentally changed mankind’s understanding of cosmology and our relation to the universe at large. I took this and added the planets that had not been discovered at the time of Copernicus and combined with the other sacred symbols, places and subjects that were relevant to the subject of the Eclipse.


Nicola:

Nicola, Tolkien of course was a maker of myth, and myth, you’ve said, is at the heart of your own work. Why is myth so central to what you do?

N: Myth, in my mind, was once old truths. Many are fascinated by folklore and the like because one cannot find the proof that the modern world seems so obsessed by now. The creatures and deities from times gone by hold a strong fascination for me.

Why in particular is the unicorn so integral to your work?

N: It’s the equus connection. The history of the unicorn is deep and convoluted. In Celtic times, the horse was placed among the gods, such was its majesty. My idea is that, very generally speaking, the unicorn is a glorification of the symbol of equus; his symbol of intelligence visualised as the horn protruding from the place of the ‘third eye’. The energies of these creatures in their many forms – unicorn, Pegasus and centaur alike – are a constant intrigue and inspiration for me.

At the centre of your work, you have said, is the “age-old quest” for purity. How would you characterize this purity?

N: Well I think it portains to what came before and the possibilities of what came before that still lie shrouded in the mystery that intrigues so many of us creatives.

Since joining forces with Peter an important part of your work has been running the gallery. I guess the location has deep significance for you both. What led you to locate it in Tintagel, so much associated with King Arthur?

N: Peter had a gallery there before I came along, and yes, the location does have great significance for us both. Naturally, the fascination of King Arthur and the complex integrations of tales that surround Camelot inspire us both, and we feel comfortable as artists in such a location.

Take us through your iconic work, “The Gatekeepers of the Cosmos”.

N: This my most literally symbolic work to date. The unicorns stand as the gatekeepers between the earth and the cosmos. The meeting of their horns is reflected in the pattern of stars above their heads that, when joined, form the old symbol that stands for ‘As above: So below’. The unicorns represent the male and the female and their horns encapsulate the symbol of the pentacle which represents the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water which surround the centre which represents the light. Its reflection is seen in the earth below; the secondary reference to the philosophy that what is above, is so below.


Both:

Peter, why do you have such a longstanding interest in a variety of media—jigsaws, posters, clothing, album covers, to name a few? Similarly, Nicola, your work encompasses many media, I believe.

In the twenty-first century, media and product are very important. We enjoy being artists that give art to the public in its many forms. Companies approach us to licence our work and, because we have a gallery, it allows us to extend our work into forms that people can enjoy from many different perspectives and functions.

You both clearly have found a deep affinity with each other’s work. How did you find one another?

To cut a long story short, everybody’s path is guided, and so was ours!

What has your teaming up added to the development of each other’s work?

It helps us both to constantly have an extra pair of eyes on what we are doing! We love the ability to knock ideas around with each other; some joining; some remaining separate.

You collaborate, I believe, with each other in your paintings. How do you find this works out?

We have quite strict rules about this. When the pressure is on, one or other of us (whoever is the most busy!) needs a hand so we assist each other in the underwork of some paintings. However, it stops there so that our work specifically and strictly remains our own unless we have decided to do a totally joint piece which we also love as our styles are quite mad when they’re joined together!  

Though each other’s paintings are quite distinct, there are strong affinities. How would you describe their affinity and difference?

We seem to have the same dreams; they just come out differently: different portals for different minds, with similar intentions to express and communicate, and our belief that the gap should be narrowed between artist and public. It’s very pleasurable to paint in our gallery and allow people to be a part of that.

What have been some of the main artistic influences on your work?

The list is huge! History itself is a vast and constant intrigue. We both love the Pre-Raphaelites and many of the classical masters for their pure skill in accurate representation – Nicola especially loves Stubbs; Peter has an undying intrigue for anything in a uniform! Surrealism – those guys were really brave to push art on like that, as were the Pre-Raphaelites. Contemporaries such as Alan Lee and Josephine Wall are also big favourites.

Why do astrology, alchemy, the Celts and other practices from before modern times have such an appeal today? What are you both trying to restore or rehabilitate in your work?

That’s a big one! We think people are really trying to find their dreams, and sometimes the path to find that is the old path; The Old Way.

We don’t necessarily think we’re trying to restore anything other than to keep generating expression artistically by hand and through imagination. Everything is so material now that imagination and knowledge of times gone by are two of the most important things that we find ourselves constantly concerned with.

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