Linear: In Conversation with Nigel Hall

Tell me about the time in your life when you were happiest?
A tricky one as so often one’s happiest times involve human relationships. Putting these hugely important loves aside, two of my happiest times ironically relate to experiences where other people were largely absent.
The first was the first of many visits to Soda Lake, a dry expanse in the Californian Mojave Desert in 1968, when I was twenty-five. The second, another desert, was the Atacama in Chile in 2017 when I was seventy-four.

What’s the very best thing that has ever happened in your career and why?
Best thing? Being awarded a Harkness Fellowship, which enabled me to spend two creative years in the USA in 1967. It provided professional opportunities, offered new experiences and revealed amazing landscapes.

What is the one thing you want to do or achieve in the next 5 years?
I’d like to hold another survey exhibition, not as a full stop, but more of a comma before, God willing, another spell of creativity.

Your grandfather was a stonemason; did he influence your choice to become a sculptor and if so how?
My grandfather was a stonemason and a maker who certainly influenced me with his love of craftsmanship which gave him quiet contentment and satisfaction. I watched as his chisel cut a line in stone which created an edge and formed a shadow in one action which certainly influenced me.

You are in the public collections of countries, but which was the most memorable exhibition and why?
My most memorable exhibition was my 2008 retrospective at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, it gave me the opportunity to see my earliest works from the sixties in the context of drawings and sculpture from all later periods, beautifully installed both in the galleries and in the landscape.

How was your reaction when you were elected as one of the RA Academicians in 2003?
I was surprised, delighted and somewhat apprehensive when elected to the Royal Academy in 2003. ‘Academic’ has rather negative connotations but the place has changed dramatically in the last years. The membership now encompasses many of the best contemporary artists as well as the giants of the past. To sign the book containing such names was humbling.

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