My name is Nicky Larkin, I am a 32 year-old artist/filmmaker/writer from Ireland. I currently live and work in Belfast. Initially I was a painter; I studied Fine Art paint for my BA degree in Galway. By the end of my four years in art college in Galway, I had begun to experiment with video art, and specifically multi-screen video and sound installations. I then went to London to do a post-grad in Chelsea College of Art, in 2007. During this time I focused specifically on video art and video installations. Towards the end of 2007 I made my first experimental short film, Pripyat, which was shot in the abandoned city of Pripyat, deep within the Chernobyl exclusion zone in Ukraine. The city of Pripyat was a relatively new Soviet city, built in 1970 to house the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power station. It was evacuated three days after the accident in 1986, and has been empty ever since. Pripyat went on to screen at many international film festivals, including Locarno, Strasbourg, Optica Madrid, European Media Art Festival, London East End.
After Pripyat, I made an experimental documentary – Beyond The Roundabout? (2009) – funded by The Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick, in collaboration with The Irish Arts Council. The film focuses on the proposed regeneration areas of Limerick city.
Around this time I also went to Transnistria, a de-facto unrecognised state between Moldova and Ukraine, where I made the video pieceSkateboards & Tanks. Following that, in 2010 I received an Arts Council Film Project Award, to make a feature length experimental documentary on the Israel/Palestine conflict. The film was shot in the Middle East over an 8 week period in April and May 2011. I decided to call the film Forty Shades of Grey, as a play on the traditional Irish song – Forty Shades of Green. I felt there was no black and white to this conflict, just shades of grey. Then a year later, the book (and subsequent film) 50 Shades of Grey was born….and now everybody thinks that’s where I got the name from!
Around this time I began writing weekly opinion editorials for The Sunday Independent. After a few years of doing residencies (mainly in The Netherlands) – Enschede, Zoetermeer, Den Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, Amersfoort – I moved to Dublin in 2013. After a year I then moved up across the border to Belfast, where I currently live and work in The Digital Arts Studios.
October 2014 saw the culmination of two years work, with the release of my second feature documentary film, The Iron Man – The Michael Thatcher Story. Myself and producer Niall Cahir documented the final two years of artist and poet Michael Thatcher’s incredible struggle with terminal cancer. Frustrated by the “cancer-industry”, Michael Thatcher began to treat himself using cannabinoids, which he grew himself in his little garden shed. The film follows Michael as he travels to jerusalem to meet Prof Raphael Mechoulam, the pioneering chemist who first isolated THC in the 1960’s, still at the forefront of cannabinoid cancer research today.
After a few hectic years of documentary work, most recently I’ve been focusing on drama. I’ve just written and directed a 20 minute short calledToo Shall Pass, (working title Pissing in Bottles) – http://www.pissinginbottles.org/, starring Peter Campion, Gary Lydon and Denise McCormack, produced by Gary Hoctor/Hello Camera. I’m currently working on finishing a feature drama script.
My inspiration comes from a wide variety of sources. When I first made the transition from painting to video to filmmaking, I was obsessed with eastern European filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, and also Bela Tarr. I really love the bleak, sparse atmosphere, the emptiness. The slow, deliberate pacing – the long composed shots. Eastern Europe, in general, has long been a focus for me. I worked as an English teacher in Hungary for a while, did a lot of travelling in the former Eastern bloc – Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovakia, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, Transnistria. I did an artist residency program for a few months in Tbilisi in Georgia, in 2010, which was an incredible experience. During that time I also travelled to Armenia. I think my fascination with this part of the world is because I was born in 1983, so growing up I remember having atlases and encyclopedias in the early 90’s with information about all these western European countries, but little or no information about these mysterious countries that’s just opened up behind the Iron Curtain, in Central and Eastern Europe – or “New Europe”, as it’s now being called!
But I am also highly influenced by more mainstream filmmaking. Trainspotting would be my idea of as close to perfection you can get, I think. I see new things all the time that inspire me, it’s an ever-evolving process that’s constantly on the move.
In terms of the need of my art… I’m not sure. As long as I keep evolving and don’t stagnate… it keeps things fresh and interesting. Also moving between disciplines keeps it exciting for me – film, writing, Op-Eds, photography, video…even some painting! I think it’s the best form of therapy – in whatever disciple. I don’t think it’s the role of the artist to keep people happy – I think the role of the artist is to ask questions, provoke debate. But it’s also a therapeutic role for the artist, that’s very important…so in that sense it means absolutely everything. I think I’d go completely insane if I didn’t have art – whether that’s writing, filmmaking, photography, painting… whatever.
The creative systems in Ireland are the same as any developed capitalist country. I’m not saying that as a criticism, it’s just a fact. The Irish government has been very good to me, funding films through the Arts Council, so I can’t really complain. I wouldn’t have gotten to travel to any of the places I went to make the films I did without Irish Arts Council government support, so there are definite benefits to working in a developed capitalist country! But it can sometimes be frustrating too. Art became a total commodity during the “Celtic Tiger” years of the early millenium in Ireland. But I think there’s a little bit of a change going on; since we had the grande economic meltdown of 2008, I like to think that perhaps as a society we have renegotiated the actual value of things… I’d like to think we’re not quite as extremely addicted to acquisition… that material things and cultural things have found a healthier balance. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Maybe once we get back to booming economies we’ll get all Wall Street, greed is good all over again… people have very short memories!! Frighteningly short!
The future of my art is probably weighted towards filmmaking… for the foreseeable future anyway. But who knows… I might end up back to being a painter!