Nell Mitchell is obsessed with making work about “normal things” that “are often passed by or less noticed”. Combining simple, relatable subject matter with bright colours, bold brushstrokes and a good dose of “triviality and silliness”, Nell aims to make people laugh and feel comfort through her work. The bold written text which often appears in her paintings plays an important role in making chaotic and humorous compositions speak to the viewer. In much the same way that a meme only makes sense with the text above it, Nell’s painting of a woman doing the splits in bed, sweating profusely but looking rather happy about it might seem baffling without the text telling us that the painting describes a love affair between “my electric blanket and me”.
But even without the text, the cheery, semi-autobiographical figures which populate Nell’s work are relatable and charismatic. Investing each piece with her everyday “journal-like” thoughts, a stream of consciousness connects her day-to-day sketches with her larger painted pieces: “In true narcissistic fashion, I am inspired by my own life and the things that I do, hear and say,” she tells us. Trying her best to take her work as “un-seriously as possible” her paintings allow the viewer a “direct window” into her state of mind in the moment she decides to create something.
Her diptych painting Dancing in My Room is a grand-scale homage to her state of mind during lockdown. Made at a time when she had moved back home to Surrey, Nell captures that dual sense of child-like “frustration” and “comfort” that many of us felt, having to bunk up with our parents again during weeks of being stuck inside. A topless dancing figure wearing pants “resembling a nappy” is surrounded by little illustrations of common themes that were revolving around her head at the time: a cat, a skull (“resembling the time that I had to spend getting way too existential”), sunlight seeping through a window, a bed, some food, a cigarette.
“I made this painting to capture the moments before bed, or in the morning, or in a dull moment during the day, whereby I’d put my music on loud and just dance around in my room,” the artists explains, “thinking about a time not too far away where I could be dancing outside of my room, making sure to keep things light and not get too bogged down in taking life too seriously.”
Nell’s sketchbook is very central to her practice. Always keen to branch out to different mediums, she decided to re-imagine various drawings and musings from the pages of her sketchbook in clay. In a series of ceramic tiles she called From sketchbook to ceramics, she records insights like: “It’s ok to pick your nose because everyone does” and “I slept till 5pm and I feel like shit”. Concluding her thoughts on the series, she tells us: “The good thing about my work is that I don’t often feel a great need to explain it, since it is so self-explanatory and obvious, which is exactly what I strive for as an artist.”
Nell Mitchell: My Electric Blanket And Me (Copyright © Nell Mitchell, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.