Artist captures changing face of Hampstead Heath in new landscapes

Marianne Nix’s show at Crouch End Open Studios evokes our collective experience of the Heath through its history and heritage, finds Alex Bellotti.

Considering Hampstead’s vibrant, cultural reputation, artists such as Marianne Nix are curious as to why it has never embraced Open Studios.

These events, which have proved popular everywhere from Surrey to Richmond, allow residents to step inside artists’ studios, galleries and iconic venues for a day, travelling around town on an artistic tour of their local area.

From May 9-10, Crouch End Open Studios returns for its 11th year, and Vale of Health resident Nix will be exhibiting her latest body of work, Traces, at the Original Features Gallery.

The show specifically charts the artistic heritage of the Heath, remembering names including Keats, Shelley and Leigh Hunt alongside modern icons such as Michael Foot, Boy George, and Judi Dench.

“In a way people’s thoughts and ideas collect together,” says Nix, whose work has been shown twice at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. “A new idea always comes from collected thought or experiences with other people or other places, so in a way I was thinking about the water coming down from the top of the Heath and collecting into these ponds and it’s like a symbol really for people’s ideas.”

The pieces on display were created by manipulating photographs digitally and then using traditional printmaking and oil-painting techniques onto wood.

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Among them are miniseries that show the changes occurring to Hampstead Heath, be they through a single footprint or via the controversial Heath Ponds Dam Project.

Nix points to Viaduct III as a piece that has dramatically altered as a result of current works on the Heath, while Ephemeral London from Parliament Hill is a reflection on the “relationship between nature and the city – the fact that we think cities are there to stay, but they can disappear, a bit like the Inca cities”.

Reflections, meanwhile, uses the famous signatures of famous icons to further this theme of change: “Signatures look like ripples and they’re changing; people’s signatures are never the same from one signing to the next.

“[The picture] is about change and personality, and also that a ripple disappears and we’re only here for a short time too. Some signatures and what people leave, they stay with us for a long time, but with others it’s just a very fleeting memory.”

Traces by Marianne Nix, is at the Original Features Gallery, 155 Tottenham Lane N8 9BT from May 9 until May 26. Phone 020 8348 5155.