|Born||15 November 1975
|Education||De Montfort University, Leicester.|
|Known for||painting, sculpture, collage, conceptual art, installation art, video art|
Nicolas Ruston (born 1975) is a British artist, “most recognised for his silicone and mixed media works, which explore the notion of artificial manipulation. Ruston's work is concerned with collective beliefs and shared verbal and visual narratives in relation to the mass media and its version of reality”. He works in London and Norwich.
Ruston has had an accomplished career within the advertising industry, and brings a knowledge and understanding of its nature into his work. He is “both an advertising insider and an artist: a participant commentator who, in his artwork, addresses advertising’s enormous presence in our lives”.
Ruston has exhibited internationally and his works are represented in numerous private and corporate collections. He is a lecturer at Norwich University College of the Arts and is creative director of an advertising agency.
Ruston was born and grew up in North Weald near Epping, Essex, and is related to the actress Audrey Hepburn (born Audrey Kathleen van Heemstra Ruston). “An artist from a very young age, he had always been fascinated by society’s growing conditioning to media influences” Ruston started painting in 1987, aged 12, and has been exhibiting work since 1996.
He trained under the late sculptor John Warren, with whom he had an apprenticeship for three years. He then went on to gain a BA in Design Management and Innovation at De Montfort University, Leicester. It was here that Ruston expanded his studies in “semiotics and the social theory of advertising and marketing”.
His art is informed by his experience in media industries, where image plays an integral part, “his past as a senior media creative and art director, whose job included "recreating the real", has fed into his[…]work in which he toys with the visual codes of mass media” (Jean-Robert Saintil, Dazed Digital, May 2010). He started as a Head Designer and from there moved into designing movie and pop video props, pre-production artwork, visualisation and graphics. He then entered into the ultimate world of image and manipulation — advertising. He has worked as an Art Director on brands such as Jaguar cars, Sky Television plc, Diesel clothing, Barclays, Virgin Group and the BBC.
Ruston has said about his own work, that he wants to “illustrate the difference between making love and pornography. I think that is a metaphor for the way people relate to the mass media”.Neal Brown noted in his essay that, “Ruston has commanded the vast turmoil of meanings that attach to this subject be upended, spilling their moral and ethical complexities in a brazen exposure of orgiastic, entangled writhings, whose values he determines as variously humorous, sad or debased”.
In an interview with Dazed Digital, Ruston states that, “our beliefs and values have increasingly become shaped by the things that we buy (or buy into) and equally how the things that we buy (or buy into) are cultivated as a response to our evolution as consumers. The media landscape is an environment that suckles us from infancy – a piece of packaging, or a jingle from an ad, can evoke as much nostalgia as a family photograph”. (Jean-Robert Saintil, Dazed Digital, May 2010)
Technique and style
Ruston works in a range of media, including painting, video and installation. “Image, text, moving image, and even supermarket shelves themselves, are employed by Ruston to make reference to the commercial, ideological and political devices that business applies, with its remorseless energy, to changing consumer behaviour”. In some cases, Ruston has even incorporated other artist’s work such as “‘sculptures by Auguste Rodin amongst his own works, as an installation”. Although his work is varying in nature, he has developed a number of techniques unique to his practice. These can be put into three distinct categories: Scratch-painting, Silicone-painting and Slice-painting.
Ruston's work has featured at Art Below exhibition's in the London Underground.
Deliver Us From Spin Ruston’s work often compels us look more closely at the manufactured images we encounter every day. This was most notable in his solo show "Deliver Us From Spin". “Western Society has an obsession with image, an emphasis on presentation over substance, vanity over health, marketing and packaging over progressive science and spin over government policy”.
The exhibition featured a work entitled "Bullies", painted onto a supermarket shelf. It portrayed a press clipping of Hitler combined with a headline from a celebrity gossip magazine. Much of the content featured in the show originated from found objects, including prostitutes’ calling cards, litter from the streets, or from Ruston’s extensive collection of newspapers and magazines. His work seems to delight in the very cultural images he subverts. However, any criticism is dryly neither confirmed nor dismissed, as noted in Ruston’s interview for the exhibition catalogue: “It’s difficult not to be a hypocrite when you’re living in the belly of the beast”.
Ruston was selected for inclusion in the international group show, “Viva Lolita” curated by former British Museum curator James Putnam. In his review of the exhibition for Art Review, J.J.Charlesworth commented that, “Occasionally there are shows so off the mainstream artworld radar that they're worth noting”. Advertising themes were inherent in Ruston’s scratch painting entitled, “How Can I Steer You Into The Maze Of Where I Want You To Go Today?” 2007, which referenced the famous ‘Hello Boys’ Wonderbra campaign poster.
An installation entitled “Euphoria”, based on the notorious case of Joseph Fritzl that raised questions about the divisions between fiction and reality. His daughter Elisabeth's only window to the outside world, during her imprisonment by her father, was a television, and her offspring were nurtured on media.
The Sovereign European Art Prize
In 2010, Nicolas Ruston was shortlisted for the €25,000 Sovereign European Art Prize. Ruston’s entry, a silicone painting entitled “Brave New World” was exhibited at The Barbican Centre. The painting “was inspired by an article published by The Independent newspaper, reporting the race by Japanese and American companies to acquire patents to human DNA sequences for future development and marketing”.  Ruston wanted to link this commodification of our common gene-pool to the changing representation of Nature in art by referencing “the artificial manipulation of natural products and the normalisation of this process with the aid of the media and advertising”.
In 2011, Ruston launched “Propensity Modelling”, a solo exhibition, hosted by The Hay Hill Gallery. The show featured a new collection, described by Galleries magazine as “powerful explorations in painting and video of mass media and modern myth”. The show aimed “to draw out the complexities surrounding the packaging of DNA sequences and its value as commodity”. It also featured sculptures by Auguste Rodin situated “amongst his own works, as an installation”.
The show was a turning point for Ruston and, as Neal Brown noted in his essay, “Ruston’s more recent work[…]reveals a deepened development[…]something more subtle and borderline. In these new works he seems interested in the contradictions that ensue when the high intentionality – the idealistic, pure love – that the image maker has for the creation and communication of an image, whether artist or advertiser, creates a genuine confusion between what is socially useful and what is socially useless”.
Ruston is a regular contributor to the charity Lawnfest, having donated original artworks to the art exhibition and auction event in aid of The New School at West Heath, Sevenoaks. On 11 June 2010 Ruston donated work to boost the school's bursary fund.
The Barbican Centre Trust
Ruston assisted with organising a pop-up show at The Club at The Ivy, London. The Sovereign Art Foundation donated a proportion of the proceeds raised from the culminating exhibition and auction to The Barbican Centre Trust, which delivers key arts programmes to local schools and members of the community.
De Montfort University
In July 2011, Ruston donated a large-scale silicone painting entitled “It all happened so slowly that most failed to realise that anything had happened at all” to De Montfort University, Leicester.
- Rex, Bethany (4 October 2011). "‘The Neo-Modern Myth’". Aesthetica Magazine. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "'Propensity Modelling: Nicolas Ruston' press release". Hay Hill Galleries. October 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Brown, Neal (October 2011). "Propensity Modelling: The Gates of Hell’". Hay Hill Gallery. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- 'Propensity Modelling Catalogue'. Hay Hill Galleries. 2011.
- Gayle, Andre (September 2009). "‘Altered Images The Art of Nicolas Ruston’". Urban Life Magazine. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "‘Alumnus artist makes his mark in European Art Prize’". The Gateway Extra (3): 6–7. 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "Fritzl art 'not for shock value'". BBC News. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Paula, Christa (August 2007). "Deliver Us From Spin". Christa Paula. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- James, Putnam (2008). "Exhibitions: Viva Lolita". James Putnam. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Charlesworth, J.J. (May 2008). "Viva Lolita". Art Review Magazine.
- "Viva Lolita". Maddox Arts. March 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "British artist Nicolas Ruston shortlisted for the €25,000 Sovereign European Art Prize". FAD WEBSITE. 24 February 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "Breakfast and Curator Led Tour of the Sovereign Art Prize". Contemporary Art Society. June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "The Sovereign European Art Prize". Art Rabbit. June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- Usherwood, Nicolas (October 2011). "On The Street". Galleries Magazine.
- "Propensity Modelling". Art Rabbit. October 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "Nicolas Ruston contributes original works of art to raise money for CHASE hospice care for children 27th April 2010". FAD WEBSITE. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "Madonna boost for Lawnfest event at Sevenoaks school". BBC News. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
- "The Sovereign Art Foundation and the Barbican Centre Announce New Partnership". 21 October 2009.