Nicol Allan


Nicol Allan (1931-2019) is an important yet almost unknown artist who lived and worked in the United States and Great Britain. Over more than half a century, Allan produced sumi, wood reliefs, watercolours and occasionally oils. His primary medium, however, was paper collage.

‘Nicol Allan: Collages’ is the first book to examine the breadth of Allan’s career. The works reproduced in its pages are fragile and physically intimate. They allude to the natural world, to landscape and to human life, and sometimes float playfully between figuration and abstraction.

The sense of scale can be disorientating; small works in paper that intimate dimensions of experience quite out of proportion with their size. The collages also engage in subtle and original ways with the major abstract art movements of the twentieth century (making them new), as well as other traditions such as Folk Art or Japanese and Chinese calligraphy.

For personal reasons and because of circumstance, Allan only ever produced around two hundred collages and rarely exhibited his work. Many of the collages included in this book have never been seen before. After decades of obscurity, they are finally given the attention and public life they deserve.

The writer and art historian Rye Dag Holmboe, editor of this publication, has contributed an essay that situates Allan’s collages in his wider oeuvre and in its historical context. A biographical essay by Sarah Allan, a noted scholar in the field of early China studies, relates how and where these works were made and paints a picture of the man himself and the long and interesting life they shared.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition at Laure Genillard Gallery, London (20 November 2021 – 22 January 2022).

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