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Podcast | A brush with… Mike Nelson

Ben Luke talks to Mike Nelson about his influences—from the worlds of literature, film, music and, of course, art—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work.

Installation view of Mike Nelson’s I, IMPOSTOR (the darkroom) (2011)

Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery

Nelson, born in 1967 in Loughborough in the UK, is one of the most significant British sculptors and installation artists of this century. He has spent the past three decades assembling materials gathered in junkyards, flea markets, online auctions, even street-corner fly tips into often labyrinthine sculptural environments. He creates distinctive spaces that suggest fictional (and often science-fictional) narratives, while alluding to diverse histories, obscure countercultural or political movements and current affairs as well as his own biography.

Installation view of Mike Nelson’s The Asset Strippers (solstice) (2019)

Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery

He discusses the early influence of Graham Sutherland and Francis Bacon, his elation at discovering the work of Paul Thek, how fiction—and science-fiction writers like Stanislaw Lem, J.G. Ballard and the Strugatsky brothers—liberated his approach to art making, and the enduring influence of film-makers including Jean-Luc Godard and Sergei Parajanov.

Installation view of Mike Nelson’sTriple Bluff Canyon (the woodshed) (2004)

Photo: Matt Greenwood. Courtesy the artist and the Hayward Gallery

• Mike Nelson: Extinction Beckons, Hayward Gallery, London, until 7 May

Series 15 of A brush with… runs from 29 March-19 April, with episodes released on Wednesdays. You can download and subscribe to the podcast here

This podcast is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects, the arts and culture app.

The free app offers access to a vast range of international cultural organisations through a single download, with new guides being added regularly. Recent additions include distinctive museums in different parts of the US: the Mingei Museum in San Diego, the Contemporary Art Museum St Louis and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. A host of other organisations with guides on Bloomberg Connects have shown works by Mike Nelson, from the Hayward Gallery in London—the host for Mike’s major show between February and May 2023—to Tate in the UK and the High Line in New York. Download the app and find the guide to the High Line, and you can discover more about the former elevated freight railway line that has become a park and sculpture trail. There is information about current works, the High Line’s garden zones, and access to the full archive of art projects since 2012.

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