About Nicky Loutit

It is odd being with someone who seems able to do something instinctively and superlatively, in this case paint, which is as impossible to you as breathing under water. How do they do it? How did it begin? When? There are clues - but not explanations.

With "when" perhaps more than clues. At her first boarding school, aged six, there was a marvellous art teacher, Miss Harlech. Nicky thought she was one of the Men of Harlech in the song. At nine, she was at her second boarding school, Hanford in Dorset. She was often made to stay behind in the dining room to finish up the revolting school food - fat, leeks.

There was a painting by William Coldstream of a bridge over a green river. She would stare and stare, lost in the river flowing under the bridge; "It saved my life." She couldn't read then and disliked all lessons, except Mrs Canning's art history class. But in the library there was a reproduction of Breughal's Hunters in the Snow. Again, she would look and look and look at this. "I loved that painting."

To be able to vanish completely into a painting, means a painting becomes as real as life; conversely, perhaps it becomes possible to make real life, see real life, above all feel real life as a painting. I remember one autumn we were walking past one of the Norfolk ploughed fields and Nicky said matter-of-factly "I always think the earth looks so vulnerable like that."

Nature, her surroundings, seem to stream into her ears and eyes and out at the ends of her fingers, which are holding her paintbrush. I am constantly amazed when I see parts of our garden, a flower, a bird in the wind, or the whole coast, the sea rolling in, appearing in her paintings. And because they encompass life in all its sizes and forms, the paintings are of all sizes and kinds - oils, water-colours, pencil, chalk, etchings, from three inch by two inch little oils all the way up to six foot by five foot water-colours. Frances Bacon, buying one, said he had never known a painter able to work successfully in water-colours of that size, and sixteen of the larger water-colours made up her exhibition at Browse and Darby in 1998. In fact, some of the commissioned oils are even larger - like the 12 metre by 10 metre triptych commissioned by the Abello family in Madrid.

Not only real life; real people. Nicky can suddenly become a mimic, both actually and then a few, apparently clumsy, in fact deft pencil strokes - and it is the way they stand or walk or look. One of her sons is an actor.

I certainly can't explain how she breathes under water while I, and most people, can't; why she can paint, that is, as only very few can. I can only observe how this extraordinary empathy, relayed by her paintbrush, expresses itself in her art, and how her feeling the vulnerability of the earth, which comes from her own vulnerability, makes us feel it too.

Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

Nicky Loutit - CV

1943 Born in London
1961-64 Chelsea School of Art under Lawrence Gowing, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff.
1964-67 Slade School of Art under Jeffrey Camp, William Coldstream, Michael Andrews.
1967-70 Lived abroad in Spain, Morocco and Paris.
1970 England.
1977-83 In religious community in India and America.
1983 Left community, returned to England and settled in Norfolk with her three sons.
Has undertaken numerous large commissions, including portraits, in recent years, particularly in Spain.