Meet Nicola Roos – the uber-talented artist and proud Curro Durbanville alumni whose fascinating artwork is leaving an indelible mark on the American art scene. Her enthralling solo exhibition, ‘A Taste of Salt’ was exhibited at the Simchowitz Art Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles until Saturday, 24 June 2023.
Roos, who was born in Johannesburg but grew up mostly in Cape Town where she still resides, has gained international recognition for her exceptional talent and innovative approach to art. ‘A Taste of Salt’ encompasses 40 life-sized figurative sculptures, some standing over 6-feet-tall, and each depicting little-known, but important historical figures, resplendent with elaborate armour, warrior masks and katanas or swords. Several of her most compelling pieces are based on Yasuke, an African Samurai who becomes central to ruler Nobung’s inner circle and thus the first—and only—black Samurai in 16th century Japan.
The exhibition is a huge triumph for Nicola, showcasing her artistic journey, from her formative years at Curro Durbanville to her recent accomplishments on the global art scene. Commenting on her outstanding achievements, Riaan Stroebel, Executive Head of Curro Durbanville, expressed his pride, saying, “Nicola’s dedication and exceptional work have always stood out. Her unique artistic vision and commitment to pushing boundaries have been evident since her time at our school. We are thrilled to see her flourish and make a significant impact in the art world.”
During her time at Curro Durbanville, Nicola, who was the only female in a class of ten quickly garnered a reputation for her dramatic arts prowess and an unwavering commitment to going above and beyond in her projects. From flamboyant costumes to mesmerizing dance routines and intricate prop construction, the young learner has always been highly motivated, continually pushing boundaries and keeping her peers and teachers guessing about what she might do next.
It was only during her high school years that she truly discovered her passion for creating life-size figures using Plaster of Paris bandages, under the guidance of her matric art teacher. This technique became a foundational aspect of her artistic practice, leading to numerous accolades, including receiving the award for the best exhibition in her final year at Cape Town’s prestigious Michaelis School of Fine Art.
Reducing one’s environmental footprint through art
Nicola’s artistic evolution extends beyond technique and into sustainability and eco-consciousness. As a vegetarian and later a vegan, she has embraced her personal commitment to respecting the Earth and minimising harm to the environment. Inspired by the 2018 drought crisis in the Western Cape, she began exploring recycled and upcycled materials, using them to create artworks that carry historical significance and provoke reflections on the legacy it leaves for future generations.
“The water crisis was a huge wake-up call, demanding serious introspection from us all. It urged me to explore alternative art-making methods that not only aligned with my values but were also imbued with historical significance. I discovered materials like rubber for example, which bears the weight of colonial exploitation in Africa,” she explains.
Through her art, Nicola aims to foster a greater connection to the world around us and inspires appreciation for the beauty found in everyday materials. She even extracts vibrant colours from natural dyes derived from everyday resources like turmeric, beetroot, blueberries, eucalyptus leaves, and onion peels. The approach adds depth and visual interest to her sculptures while aligning with her dedication to sustainable practices.
Her biggest inspiration is derived from rich histories, mythology, and philosophy and she loves nothing more than to explore societal structures and the complexity of the human experience.
“In a world dominated by instant gratification and the pervasive influence of social media, I believe we have become somewhat disconnected from one another’s humanity. I want to try and bridge the gap that has been created by our fast-paced, interconnected world, and instead, embrace the human touch. As my current exhibition shows, art has the power to transcend borders, bringing communities together, and initiating meaningful conversations through the universal language of creativity,” she adds.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Nicola’s motivations remained resolute and her achievements in America represents a milestone in her journey, emphasising the resilience of the artistic community in the face of adversity.
Looking ahead, and Nicola’s future looks just as bright as the creative masterpieces she continues to produce. She is especially excited about her participation in the esteemed ‘Solo Studios 2023’ event in the Riebeek Valley in August 2023, and her upcoming exhibition at the renowned Melrose Gallery in Johannesburg. Not content with being pigeonholed as a figurative artist, she is also exploring collaborations in the fashion industry, further expanding her creative horizons, and pushing boundaries like never before.