Updated: Nov 18, 2020
Interview by Mark Tamer
Nadia Nervo is the head curator at Willesden Gallery in North West London and also an artist and a freelance art mentor. We thought we’d get some insights on how she manages her different roles, and the impacts of Covid-19 on the rather unique gallery at Willesden Green.
Nadia Nervo | Artist, mentor, curator at The Gallery at Willesden Green
We know you as an artist, curator and mentor, can you tell us a bit more about what you do?
I have worked in the arts for about 20 years. My academic background is in fine art Art Communication and Design (MA, Royal College of Art and BA Camberwell College of Art). My practice incorporates photography, video and performance. I have taken part in a number of art exhibitions and film festivals and have led many curatorial projects and live events in London. I am currently Head Curator at Willesden Gallery where I programme exhibitions, including artist’s calls, live events and artists' residencies. I also work with the University of Arts London as a freelance Art Mentor providing mentorship to their final year students and supporting them as they embark on their artistic career.
As an artist
In my work as an artist, I investigate the relationship between photographer and subject, often working with strangers and exploring the nature of connections being made. Intimacy and trust between artist and sitter are key elements in my practice and fundamental to the viewer’s relationship to my portraits.
Reappearing themes in my work are gender identity, the female body and movement. I work primarily on analogue formats.
The female figure features prominently in many of my photographs. In the series seen here, I invite strangers to sit for me naked. The project aims to capture intimate portraits of women. Throughout history the nudes have been predominately portrayed by male, I am interested to explore and embrace intimacy between women, between artist and subject that is fearless and empowering.
© Nadia Nervo | 'Nudes' series
How do you find balancing the different roles? Do they feed into one another or are they best kept separate?
They are all very much interlinked. For instance one of the Willesden gallery’s strategy is to support recent graduates and offer them the gallery for a month, free of charge. This is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience on curating and organising a show, as well as having their work exhibited in a professional venue. Most of the mentees I work with are keen to get experience in the professional art world as soon as they finish their studies - this opportunity allows them to do so. They are completely responsible for arranging their own exhibition, including selecting other artists to show with, marketing and promotion, as well as managing any events attached to it. My role here is to support them to achieve this.
Equally, my photography background helps when curating shows, as it requires a strong sense of composition and overall vision as well as an eye for detail and precision. I have an understanding of how an exhibition as a whole can come together, be balanced and flow well within a given space.
The Gallery At Willesden Green
Can you tell us more about your mentoring for artists and the approach you take?
I am passionate about working with young emerging artists and recent arts graduates. The transition from an institutional framework or university to suddenly becoming a solo artist can be challenging, and overwhelming. I hear from my mentees that as soon as they finish college, they feel a bit lost and lonely - they lack the crucial support they get from the university and their college peers.