West Country raised illustrator, graphic designer, and now art consultant Nina Miles Hilpern turned a lot of heads this summer when she opted to exhibit her final major project at the Ransom Art Gallery near Sloane Square. Her mixed body of work explored concepts of the human body and the grotesque through drawings, paintings, and sculptural artworks, offering a challenging perspective on the attraction and flaws of the human body. Nina is using the skills she acquired during her BA (Hons) Fashion Illustration degree to experiment with different art forms ranging from drawings to mixed-media identities. We talk to her about her upbringing, inspirations and creating the graphic identity for Mark Ransom’s gallery.
Hey Nina, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! Although I am now based in London, I originally grew up in Bristol. Since my childhood I’ve been immersed in the art and design world as many of my family members are talented designers in various fields and I’ve painted and drawn for as long as I can remember.
What attracted you to illustration?
I feel that illustrations are a beautiful way to describe a story, and believe they can often say more than words themselves. I appreciate the freedom that illustration affords me in creating something from nothing. Being able to reflect my thoughts through the distortion of elements in this creative process is a pastime I find very therapeutic.
Did you always want to study Fashion Illustration at LCF?
It was always a dream of mine to study in London, and when I stumbled across a course in Fashion Illustration it instantly caught my eye. I have always had a love for drawing, even at fashion school when I was meant to be making clothes, I would always end up spending most of my time doodling designs and sketches. This course just made perfect sense for me as it combined my love for both art and fashion!
How would you describe your style?
I would say that my style straddles the boundary between the beautiful and the gruesome. Recurring elements in my work are detailed faces, distorted bodies and a lot of baby pinks! I like to express myself through my work, by focusing in on self-conscious aspects that are considered unattractive and attempting to make them appear artistically beautiful.
Is it important for illustrators to diversify their skills?
Whilst studying at LCF, I have been lucky enough to have learned many different techniques in the workshops and inspirational talks by previous alumni and established artists. Originally I found it quite challenging to experiment with varying mediums, but I’am so pleased to have been pushed out of my comfort zone. As a result, my practice has developed and I now enjoy working with sculptural forms and I no longer feel restricted to what felt safe. I’m a big believer in the idea that you never know until you try.
So, you’re an Art Consultant at Ransom Art Gallery. How did that come about?
I was fortunate enough to be given an internship position as an art consultant for my placement term. Afterward they then kindly took me on as a permanent member of the team and I am still here today! It has been the most wonderful and insightful of experiences working for Ransom Art and has opened my eyes to the contemporary art industry.
Did you always want to combine Fine Art with Illustration?
It wasn’t until my third year that I realised I wanted to focus more on fine art than illustration. For my final major project, I decided to take a risk by having an exhibition, containing a collection of my works as separate pieces of art, and was given the incredible opportunity to host it at Ransom Art. This was when I discovered that art offers endless possibilities, and I really look forward to seeing where it could lead. I feel that fine art offers an open platform for me to explore my mad ideas in mediums that suit.
What does a normal week at Ransom look like for you?
It changes depending on the day of the week, however, it is always very busy! I love it, and there is never a moment to be bored. I’m lucky to work closely with the gallery curator and director who have both taught me a great deal, and all of my colleagues are the loveliest of people. As an artist myself I find it inspirational to work amongst beautiful paintings and sculptures from talented European contemporary artists. Amongst others, my main job is designing all graphic elements, everything from our invitations for private views to our new website. All in all there is a diverse range of tasks and independent projects, which I find very rewarding.
What influences your work?
A lot of my inspiration and metaphoric meanings behind my works are often relatively dark with elements of surreal imagery that include accentuated flawed features and the conventionally weird. I like to explore concepts of the human body and the grotesque through my artworks, as I am intrigued by definitions, detail and what we classify as ‘beauty’. I find inspiration everywhere and my art influences range from hyper realistic, figurative styles to contemporary sculptural installations.
Do you have an icon or inspiration?
Although I do not have a particular one icon, I find my inspiration in many eclectically different works by artists such as Louise Bourguois, Alexander McQueen, and Emma Hopkins. In terms of installation and performance, I find the formations by Bosco Sodi, Robert Gober, and Rebecca Horn deeply encapsulating, amongst many others.
What do you want to achieve with your work?
In terms of progression and the development of my artistic processes, I would like to work on a larger scale with new mediums and sculptural components that I would originally have feared using. I am still very early in my fine art career and therefore it is important for me to keep my work dynamic, to be constantly learning and experimenting with new forms and techniques. Pencil drawing will always be an important part of my practice and method that I will consistently use. Following this interest, I am determined to also learn the craft of oil painting!
Do you have any exhibitions or projects coming up we should know about?
At the moment I’ve been preparing large mixed media, sculptural pieces. These works are going to be a continuation of ‘The Loose Skin Series’ that featured in my exhibition. In addition, I’ve also been working on a few commission pieces for private clients. Of course, my hope is that my works will one day soon be exhibited in a gallery space in London but for now I will be hard at work in my studio and updating my website with all my new pieces as I go.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I don’t have a set five-year plan, however, I would like to continue working on individual projects and seeing where my artworks take me professionally and personally. I hope to still be working and gaining knowledge inside the art gallery industry, especially learning about the curatorial process over time and in depth. I also wish to continue my studies and take a Masters in Fine Art.
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