By Yasmijn Jarram

The colourful paintings and drawings by Robert Nicol create an innocent, almost childlike impression. These works of art are highly illustrative. That’s why Robert Nicol calls himself an illustrator and he works for clients such as United Airlines and The Financial Times. However, his autonomous work is by no means superficial. There is more to it than meets the eye, and it is never entirely clear what exactly.

Robert Nicol’s works of art are inspired by a rich variety of sources, including the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, the 16th century Italian landscape painter Canaletto, Dutch 17th century genre art, American folk art and contemporary popular culture. This wide range of influences comes together in an imaginary world that parodies our own world. This universe is inhabited by various fictional characters who appear in absurd and at times painfully funny scenes full of tension and conflict. Their surroundings are usually represented only sparingly.

Each work is the sum of personal imaginings and historical facts. Recurring images of wounded legs and arms, weapons and crimes reveal that important themes in his work are fear, human existence and mortality. According to Robert Nicol, his thoughts go in many different directions while he works, ranging from feelings of fear, boredom, happiness and love to family, television and the weather. Similarly, in his fascinating compositions contrast such as heavy and light, cheerful and ominous go and in hand.