The Great Oolite
Honeybourne Place, Cheltenham
Artist Nika Neelova was commissioned to develop a public artwork for a new £12m high spec office building in Cheltenham’s business district. The project was funded as part of the planning obligations contribution for the development.
Nika’s work, The Great Oolite, responds to the fact that Gloucestershire contains some of the most varied geology in the UK, including layers of Jurassic rocks, oolitic limestone and beds of clay. This geodiversity has had a very strong influence on the area’s landscape, vegetation and wildlife, as well as on industry and heritage. Limestone was quarried for the construction of Cheltenham’s distinctive Regency architecture. As part of Nika’s research she took samples of rock and soil from several disused quarries around Leckhampton, south Cheltenham. The artwork is a series of individually cast tiles which when placed together form a distinguishable geological strata pattern applied to the exterior facade of the building. Each tile is cast in natural stone powders suspended in Jesmonite. The tiles were sanded, acid-etched and sealed. The artwork was installed by Nika Neelova with support from Other People’s Sculpture at the end of April 2021. Project management was supported by Lucy Badrocke.
Read A Fictional Fold an interview with Nika Neelova about the process of developing and making the artwork written by Lizzie Lloyd, a Bristol-based art-writer. Her writing has accompanied exhibitions with Foreground, Hestercombe Gallery, Field Art Projects, and Workplace Gallery, among many others, and she has contributed to numerous publications including Art Monthly, Art Review and Journal of Contemporary Painting. She is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art/Art and Writing at University of the West of England and completed her doctoral thesis in 2019 at University of Bristol. She is currently working on a collaborative project called Acts of Transfer, funded by Arts Council England, with artist Katy Beinart. Acts of Transfer will develop creative archives of socially engaged art practices and will result in an exhibition at PhoenixGallery (Brighton) in autumn 2021.
About the artist
Nika Neelova is an emerging Russian artist based in London. To date her sculptural works have been concerned with the narratives of architecture and materiality. She makes three dimensional sculpture, wall-based work and large installations that are often site-specific. Often utilising reclaimed architectural materials, Neelova is interested in the way materials and architecture influence our sense of time and place. Her sculptures are created by employing tactics of ‘reverse archaeology’ – considering an alternative reading of human history by examining found objects and architectural debris, and transforming them beyond functionality.
After studying stage design in Moscow, Nika completed a BA in Fine Art at the Royal Academy in The Hague, followed by an MA in Fine Art Sculpture at the Slade in London. EVER, her first solo exhibition in the UK, was held in the summer of 2019 at The Tetley in Leeds as part of Yorkshire Sculpture International.
Nika has been commissioned to create two permanent public commissions in London. She is currently collaborating with the Centre for Aquatic Environments at Brighton University to create a new body of work focused on strategies for dealing with water scarcity in nature for a forthcoming show at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Brighton scheduled for early 2021. Nika is represented by Vigo Gallery in London, Noire Gallery in Turin and Osnova in Russia.