A moving portrait of Bishop James standing on the Dulverton Bridge of the Cathedral is to be presented to the Diocese of Liverpool. Paid for by private donation, it will hang in Bishop’s Lodge alongside the portraits of previous Bishops of Liverpool. Painted over a period of six months by Aberdeen artist Nicole Porter, it creates a sense of spiritual reflection capturing his approachable nature while reflecting his position as a figure of guidance and authority. Nicole described her extensive research to capture the essence of a bishop who she described as an exceptional character and someone who had the gratitude of a city behind him. She explained the challenge of portraying someone who preferred to have the spotlight on others saying, “All his life has been focused on a commitment to help other people, so to have the spotlight turned on you in such an intense way with an artist observing your appearance and mannerisms, was understandably not an appealing thought.” The location for the portrait was important. Nicole explains, “The idea to situate the portrait inside the cathedral felt like a very appropriate choice. The grand exterior set up high on St James Mount overlooking the city of Liverpool, has in fact, a very intimate atmosphere when you step inside. The Dulverton Bridge appealed to us both for many reasons. It had the attraction to me of providing an instantly recognisable viewpoint of the cathedral as well as signifying a visual representation of the Bishop’s role of shepherding his flock below. The view of the arch created by the south window was symbolic to the Bishop and the elevated location allowed a sense of privacy and quiet contemplation.” The poise of the Bishop is significant. His gaze slightly upwards captures a sense of prayer and spiritual reflection. His hands were a key part with the portrait emphasising his ecclesiastical ring and wedding rings. Nicole Porter expressed, “It was an honour to paint Bishop James and the experience is one I will treasure forever. I hope the portrait will inspire people to reflect on all the great things he has done throughout his career.” Bishop James said, “while not feeling entirely comfortable with a process that focuses so intensely on myself I am extremely pleased with a portrait that reflects glory to God where it is due.”
Hundreds of people from across the region attended a farewell service for the Bishop of Liverpool. The celebration for the Rt Rev James Jones, at Liverpool Cathedral, was held ahead of his retirement on his 65th birthday in August. Parishioners, families, school children, clergy and dignitaries from across Merseyside and beyond, including Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson, packed the cathedral to mark the Bishop’s retirement from the post he has held since 1998. Families of the Hillsborough victims also attended including chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group Margaret Aspinall and Jenni Hicks, mum of Sarah and Victoria Hicks. In his final sermon last night, the Bishop thanked the people of Liverpool. He said: “There’s so much to say that I feel tonight I have nothing to say. Yet the word in my heart is simply to say “Thank you”. “Thank you to God for calling me to Liverpool. Thank you to you for your ministry to me. “Thank you to my close colleagues in the Core Group with whom in 15 years of working together there has never been an angry word. “Thank you to the household at Bishop’s Lodge whose support and love has sustained me and my family throughout. “Thank you to my family and especially Sarah, without whom I would not and could not have been Bishop of Liverpool.” The Bishop added that he was honoured to have signed his name ‘James Liverpool’ for the last 15 years. He said: “Just as Jesus was known as ‘of Nazareth’, so I have been privileged to be known as ‘of Liverpool’ and the city and the Diocese, with its humour and honesty and wearing its heart on its sleeve.” The Diocese also received a specially commissioned portrait of the Bishop, which will now hang in Bishop’s Lodge alongside those of his predecessors. The portrait – of Bishop James standing on the Dulverton Bridge of the cathedral – was painted over a period of six months by Aberdeen artist Nicole Porter. She said: “It was an honour to paint Bishop James and the experience is one I will treasure forever. I hope the portrait will inspire people to reflect on all the great things he has done throughout his career.” The Bishop of Warrington, the Rt Rev Richard Blackburn, will have pastoral oversight of the Diocese of Liverpool until a permanent replacement is appointed to one of the most senior roles in the Church of England. The service closed with Bishop James formally handing over the pastoral staff to Bishop Richard. He said: “We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Bishop James for the way in which he has skilfully, sensitively led our Diocese over the past 15 years.” Bishop James’s profile increased hugely after he was appointed chairman of the Hillsborough Independent Panel and helped to produce the definitive report into the disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool FC fans. The report produced by the Panel last September finally revealed the scale of the cover- up following the disaster in which 96 Liverpool FC fans died. The Bishop will continue to have a role within the Hillsborough process as an advisor to Home Secretary Theresa May after his retirement. The next Bishop will not be announced until the spring of next year.
This week Fiona Lawson focuses on the art queen of King Street. You may or may not be aware of the bright purple art gallery on King Street; this is “home” to Nicole Porter. I first met Porter a year or so ago when I stopped by her studio-come-gallery and ended up in the midst of a fairly lengthy chat about art and all such things. Aside from her impeccable artistic talent, what struck me the most was how genuinely gracious she was, and also how adorably fluffy her little dog was. Born in Ellon, she graduated with a first class honours in Fine Art from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee and since then her repertoire has gone from strength to strength. Art was not necessarily her first choice as a career path – a possibility was Law at Aberdeen University – however a good art teacher in school encouraged her to apply to art school. After graduating in 2008 she moved to Norway and worked alongside Odd Nerdrum who is a figurative painter that emulates the workings of Rembrandt and Caravaggio. On the guidance Nerdrum had given her, Porter’s response was that her had taught her how to effectively use a colour palette by simply using red, black, yellow and white which, as Porter says, is brilliant for flesh tones. Porter’s oil painting Odd Nerdrum’s Palette is quite likely an ode to her former mentor. A year later Porter and Nerdrum continued their self-directed studies in Paris, and shortly afterwards, Porter moved to New York to become an assistant to Steven Assael; a contemporary figurative painter with an eye for naturalism and romanticism. During her time in New York, Porter enrolled at the prestigious Art Students League School, which she describes as “an insanely hectic schedule, which started at 8am and didn’t stop until 3am every day of the week.” Porter’s time in Norway, Paris and New York was made viable through the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation, which awards grants to artists as an aid for development and recognition. However, his is just one award in a list of several granted to Porter. For someone who is only 26 years old, to have accomplished so much already is a testament to her dedication and is very evident within her workings. The character and likeness of the two young girls in Two Peas In A Pod is so lifelike that you almost wonder how anyone could achieve that level of skill. Porter manipulates the oil paints to create the perfect texture and tone of the long flowing hair. This can also be seen in her Athena and At Odds paintings, which are both self-portraits. When speaking of portraiture, porter believes that it is the hardest art form to master. I completely understand why; not only are you putting paint to canvas, but you are also attempting to paint a personality. Whilst Porter may prefer oil paints, I love the craftsmanship of her graphite pencil drawings, in particular Wish You Were Here and The Art of Seeing, of which she describes as having “a childlike and organic quality.” Her eye for detail is impeccable and she manages to capture the light so well. When I asked her what sort of advice she would give to any aspiring artists, Porter replied, “it takes a lot of time to develop your practice into something which is presentable never mind sellable. My advice to students wanting to go into the art world would be to draw as much as possible, every spare minute draw and practice!” As well as her own work, Porter also exhibits other established and emerging artists within her gallery which are very often worthy of a look. She also provides one-to-one tuition and group classes for a variety of ages, abilities and mediums, in addition to commissions. All of the paintings I have mentioned are available to view on her website www.nicoleporter.co.uk, but I strongly recommend for you to drop by the gallery on King Street and meet Nicole Porter for yourself in order to see her artistic flair first hand. She is such a welcoming individual and I wish her every success in what she does.
A network of artists in the east end of Aberdeen have collectively rebranded the area the city’s “creative quarter.” Representatives of galleries, studios, workshop spaces and businesses say they want to create a new focus for the local artistic community. Peacock Visual Arts, the Artists Pad, Aberdeen Artists Society, Aberdeen Arts Centre, The Nicole Porter Gallery and Rapport Tattoo Studio are among the organisations in the area, which stretches from the Castlegate at the east end of Union street, along Justice Street and King Street. Nicole Porter, who grew up in Ellon but has spent time living and working alongside artist in New York and Paris, said there was a growing level of interest in creative activities in the Granite City. She said: “It is quite an individual practice being an artist, but I think it is becoming more and more popular for artists to work together. It definitely makes a difference. “People coming to the area can plan a few cultural events to visit. There are also a lot of events and workshops that appeal to artists.” Kenneth Flavill, who runs the Artists Pad in Castlegate, said the idea was to try and “re-invent” the east end and realise its potential. He said: “If Aberdeen is to be taken seriously in tits quest for UK City of Culture 2017, then it is vital we start working with the creative community by providing a central hub from which ideas can be discussed to enable local enterprise to evolve.” The Nicole Porter Galley is hosting an exhibition titled Mastering The Art – Copies form Aberdeen Art Gallery, which runs until August 4.
Walking down King Street trying to shield yourself from the buffeting gale-force wind in the hope you will avoid the vast puddles that litter the pavements, it is easy to see why many people, even locals, see Aberdeen as grey and dreary. Even in spring. “I like Aberdeen. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.” As the Castlegate draws closer there is a sudden break in the seemingly endless line of granite shops and flats. A vibrant purple exterior provides a welcoming relief from the driving rain. It is the entrance to The Nicole Porter Gallery, the base and showcase for a young artist and gallery owner bearing her name. “Aberdeen is a place that has a lot to offer,” she says. “It’s got the beach, it’s got the mountains, it’s got the city scene. You know, even when it’s chucking it down the beach is still gorgeous. I just really, really like it. I’d rather be here than Paris or New York.” That isn’t a throwaway remark. She means it, having lived in both cities on her journey to learn the skills to become a professional artist. Upon graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, Porter went to Norway to study with and assist figurative painter Odd Nerdrum. This led to a four month stint working in Nerdrum’s Paris studio before uprooting to New York to learn from Steven Assael, one of her favourite representational artists. “Going abroad was essential. It broadens your horizons and I met loads of different people. It makes you aware of the art scenes in other places and maybe what’s lacking or what could happen in Aberdeen. Now I have a gallery I control, it makes me think, if an exhibition can work in New York or Paris, why can’t it work here? It’s always good to see what else is going on. You don’t get the same effect just by looking online, you need to be there and see it.” It would be easy to imagine the path from art school to gallery owner via Europe and North America would have been Nicole Porter’s lifelong ambition. However, the reality is somewhat different. “I had always liked drawing, but I wasn’t like ‘I want to be an artist’, it just ended up being that way. I never even picked art at school. The head of the art department took me out of classes and sat me in his office explaining why it was important to pick art as a subject. So I chose French instead! But after about a month I was thinking ‘what have I done?’” The most clichéd of thinkers would have you believe everyone has their “sliding doors” moment in their life where one decision could completely alter the future. For Nicole, it was what to do when she finished school and whether she would end up in a courtroom or a studio. “My UCAS form was a total mish-mash of subjects. I had got into law but thought I’d send a cheeky application to art school since I had ended up doing a portfolio at school, and if I got in maybe I should give it a go because I’d regret it if I didn’t. I got in and that was it. I didn’t really think about what I was letting myself in for, I just thought art sounds more fun than law!” The Nicole Porter Gallery opened in September 2010 and shows exhibitions of other artists work and occasionally exhibitions of her own work. She also conducts classes in the gallery’s studio. So as well as being artist, gallery owner and teacher, you could add entrepreneur. Just don’t say that to her face. “I don’t like words or terms that sound like they belong in The Apprentice,” she jokes. “It was my mum’s idea to open a gallery. I wasn’t so sure at first. I am an organised person and organised artist. I always think from the artist’s point of view, which is maybe not how other galleries operate but I think it’s an advantage in some ways because other artists trust and rely on you. My family is involved in the gallery so much I rely on them for the business heads rather than relying on my own!” So what is next for The Nicole Porter Gallery? A grand five year plan? Expansion? More travel? “I’ll probably decide on what I’m going to have for lunch,” she laughs. “I plan the next exhibition or show but there’s no long-term plan. You just don’t know what’s going to happen or what life will throw at you, so what’s the point in planning?” As it’s time to leave Nicole to continue work on her latest creation, there’s one final thought to that “sliding doors” moment. If she had chosen law, would she have eventually ended up as an artist anyway? “Probably not,” she concedes. “Though I’m a competitive person and want to be the best in anything and everything I do, so I would have probably want to be the best lawyer in the world.” Although said tongue-in-cheek, with that attitude behind her it would be hard to see The Nicole Porter Gallery going anywhere other than from strength to strength.