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Sue Simmons WallaceDuke Hagerty

Gordon Nicholson is an architect with two AIA SC Robert Mills Residential Design Merit Awards for 2007 as well as being a Grace Memorial Bridge Design Competition Co-Winner in spring 2006 and a Grand Award 2006 recipient from Remodeling Magazine.  His work appeared in Canada in the fall of 2007 in an event called “Reconciling Poetics and Ethics in Architecture,” at McGill University, Canada.  His paper titled “Silent Space” and the group show was "70 Architects."

His work was selected for the Medical University of South Carolina's contemporary collection for the 2008 Ashley River Tower. 

Nicholson’s hauntingly beautiful watercolors appeared in Batture, the LSU School of Architecture Journal in an article in 2004 entitled Present Imperfect (cowriter Alice Guess) that described his thoughts relative to his paintings and the south.  “All of the work represents sites in a state of transformation… the images can be divided up into three subjects of study---the ruin, the machine, and light.  Exploring ruins induces self-conscious reflections of our body and its temporality. The paintings of broken mechanical machines represent a curious tension between subject matter and aspects of the artistic process.  The departure of each work is a digital image captured effortlessly by an electronic device.  Then the instantaneous ease of the initial step is reinvested with physicality by the labors of the hand – drawing, painting, and writing.  In some ways that initial tension may be symptomatic of our present condition of increasingly mediated experience through electronic devices.

Silos adjacent to empty fields become enlarged sundials.  Time washes over these artifacts as the light waxes and wanes in the course of days, months, and years.  The sun shadows on trees and objects sews the man-made and the natural into one presence.  Winter air is clear; light is cold and crisp sharpening the outlines.  Recognized at the level of our intuition, light informs our essential understanding of place.  These images attempt to study that specificity.  The potential energy apparent in machine remnants also intensifies the evidence of weathering and material temporality.  Vines and trees creep in around joints and levers; moisture from rain and humidity seize the gears, the elements in action.  Those forces we as architects challenge with every detail, yet the resultant beauty of leaving the forces to their own devices is surprising.

Bemoaning what we have lost—that which was never fully realized except in the realm of ideas—we lose that which we did have---a rich tradition of utilitarian buildings and artifacts from our agrarian/ industrial past.  Places lost to vines, fires, and neglect without us really even noticing and along with the places themselves all the cultural dialogue associated with those structures.  To render visible those invisible sites by simple attention opens up the narrative possibilities of those sites.  Mutual recognition of quality in a declining structure can encourage dialogue.  Histories and anecdotes can surface.  By attempting to represent that resultant dialogue, these paintings transform discussion.  They take a familiar site and upset its nostalgic “picturesque” quality by reinvesting it with a new narrative.  The text does not allow the images to be viewed as innocent landscapes or objects; the intersections of text and image act as a challenge to the subject matter.  Moreover, that challenge is the “critical” aspect of this work.  Without the layer of text, these would just be “pretty landscapes” of the disappearing South, lovely sepia postcards.  However, the text is a leap past pretty, it is a deliberate defacement of an imagined south suggesting new readings and interpretations.

If there is anything besides the direct formal and compositional aspects that can translate into a discussion of “critical regionalism” and architecture, it lies in the exploration itself.  In order to be critical we must let go of preciousness and make that mark across the picture.  We must invest it with our collective memory and our thoughts.  In the retelling, these forms, materials, and circumstances point to an essential quality, which is recognizable to all, an imperfect narrative to combat the perfected façade.”