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Featured: Nicole Levenberg



Nicole Levenberg‘s first solo exhibition in Joburg at the NIROXprojects space explores colour and form with local flora studies adding 2D texture. The entire space has been ‘styled’ rather than the works curated, which, Nicole tells us, reflects the blurring of the divides between art and design that she aspires to in her work.



Following your Fine Arts degree, what made you want to go on to explore textile design? 


Throughout my fine art studies I always had a more design-orientated aesthetic and approach, along with a strong interest in fashion design and decor. Colour and pattern were always at the forefront of my work. It seemed like the natural progression.



You’ve had the opportunity to intern with some world-renowned design brands (Alexander McQueen, liberty and Anthropologie) – how did you get your foot in these doors, and what were some of the most valuable lessons you learnt during that time? 


Studying at Central Saint Martins in London afforded us fantastic opportunities and encouraged industry collaboration with leading design brands. Many internship opportunities arose out of collaborative university projects. It definitely taught me about hard work, perseverance and pushing the boundaries.




What do you personally make of the art/design debate?  


I think historically there were clear cut distinctions between the two spheres, but these days the division is becoming increasingly blurred and irrelevant. Being trained in both art and design I enjoy and deliberately work in the space between the two and find it unnecessary to label or define each creative outcome.



The visual motifs in your current exhibition, Samples I – VIII, seem to be in two parts: landscapes and geometric studies. How do these fit together in this collection? 


In my work I always like to balance illustrative detailed mark-making with a more simplified graphic element. Aesthetically this approach has always worked, balancing a more classic/traditional type of drawing with a more contemporary abstract juxtaposition. In this collection the illustrative elements are based around South African landscapes which become more abstracted simplified rock-like formations in the geometric studies, but all deriving from aspects of nature.




I read that this exhibition was ‘styled’ rather than ‘curated’. Can you explain a little about how this distinction informs the way your work is presented… 


Perhaps more than an obviously different end result, it was the approach that was important for me. House and Garden’s decor stylist Dean van Aswegen helped with the placement of the works in relation to pieces of furniture, in much the same way as he would style a shoot for a magazine. It was this decor focused eye curating what would normally be an art exhibition that I found interesting, while at the same time moving what could be perceived as art into a more design/ decor orientated space. This playful ‘breaking the rules’ highlighted the irrelevance of the art/ design distinction.




Where do you most often draw inspiration and insight for your work?


Anything aesthetically interesting or unusual can inspire me.



Can you please take us through your creative/creating process…


Concept.Research.Inspiration.Drawing.Colour and scale experimentation.Product application.



How would you describe your aesthetic? 


Classic detailed illustration with an unexpected contemporary twist



You’ve participated in numerous collaborations, including two separate product design brands in this exhibition. What do you enjoy about working in this way?


In the design industry it is always very exciting working with other talented individuals that have completely different skills and strengths to myself. In this collaborative approach I can contribute to making products that I would otherwise never be able to create from start to finish. These unexpected juxtapositions of my fabrics with their product designs is what creates interesting new results. It is also a great privilege as a start-up designer to have the opportunity to collaborate with some of South Africa’s design industry greats such as Anatomy Design and Dokter and Misses.



Colour features prominently in your work; which is your favourite colour? 


That is an impossible question to answer. I think it is the juxtaposition and combination of particular colours that excites me, rather than any one colour in isolation. It also changes daily.




What did you want to be when you were growing up?


A fashion designer.



What excites you most right now about Joburg?


Endless opportunities.




Photos by Annalize Nel


SAMPLES I – VIII is on at NIROXprojects at Arts on Main until the 1st June.


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