Nick Gentry (Nicholas James Gentry) is a British artist, born in London in 1980. He is known for his “social art from the obsolete” – oil portraits that use old recycled floppy disks as a canvas and film negative artworks. The central theme of his works is recycling obsolete media and the reuse of personal objects, thus creating a conversation between digital and analog processes. He has exhibited in the UK, USA and many other cities worldwide, along with street art stars such as Banksy, Shepard Fairey and Blek le Rat. As a consequence, he is regarded as a part of London urban scene.
From Trouble Maker to a Successful Graduate
Nick Gentry was born in London. He grew up in St Albans, a nearby town. He went to Parmiter’s School in Garston, Hertfordshire and was almost expelled due to his troubling behavior on numerous occasions. Later on, Gentry studied Sculpture in GCSE, but trapped air in the clay destroyed his entire exhibition in the kiln, a thermally insulated chamber. While he studied art at Ridge Street Art School and The University of Hertfordshire, he was influenced by the well known exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Art, which signaled the arrival of the Young British Artists. Gentry applied to Liverpool College of Art, but was refused admission. However, a year later his application was successful and he started attending the college. Gentry went on to become a successful graduate from Central Saint Martins in London in 2006.
We Were There, 2014
In his portraits and installations the human form is the means to explore the medium, not a subject in itself. Gentry’s art searches for the relationship of the humans to both man-made world and reality. The central theme of his works is recycling obsolete media and the reuse of personal objects, which is closely linked to the theme of life and death. The artist is amused by the idea that it is possible to create artworks from public donations. A conversation between digital and analog processes is also one of the themes of his work.
Nick Gentry’s biggest source of inspiration is the fact that people donate their old discs and, in that way, help him create his works. His creative process is influenced by the labels on the discs, they give him clues about the information stored on the floppy. The artist also admires Leonardo Da Vinci, his ability to express the ideas and the amount of creativity he was blessed with.
Recycling and Reuse
Gentry’s work documents historical media which once had a crucial role in modern technology and has outlasted its purpose. He emphasizes and focuses on recycling obsolete media and the reuse of personal objects. The artists claims that ‘Today we go to great lengths to create a digital identity in addition to the actual lives we live, with the belief that these online records are only growing in importance and will outlive us.’ Before galleries started representing him, Gentry had a habit of leaving paintings in the streets, so that any passers-by could pick it up as a gift. This ‘free art’ represents his idea of art as a commodity and its value in society.
Floppy Disk Paintings
The artist’s floppy disc paintings present a series of Generation X portraits on canvases. They are made from used computer disks, with a metal hub which serves as the subject’s deeply un-humanlike eye. The handwritten labels are just an addition to his haunting renderings, together with the disks’ original blue, black, or grey color. Gentry’s source of the discs were entirely public donations. This series represents Gentry’s first venture into what has been called ‘social art’. At the same time archaeological and evocative, the series turns form and function inside out.
Film Negative Portrait
Film Negative and X-ray Artworks
Again contributed entirely by members of the public, Gentry’s series of portraits made from used film negatives and X-rays call attention to a collective identity, that has both emotional and biological perspectives. The selection process of negative is tone-based. Gentry layers the film to create the contrast and shape of the faces. The darker tones were made using X-rays, which can be seen in the hair section of the images, which are back lit with LED.
Solo and Group Shows
Gentry has been making a name for himself internationally with his unique, artistic works of social art. He has been featured in galleries and cities throughout the world since 2009.
In 2009 the artist had participated in his his first group show Cut-Copy, hosted by T&P Fine Art in Philadelphia, USA. In 2010, Gentry had his first pop-up solo show at Studio55 Gallery in London, UK. The show was titled Auto-Emotion.
2011 was the year of solo exhibitions. Gentry exhibited solo at Robert Fontaine Gallery in Miami, USA; Whisper Gallery in London, UK (where he also exhibited in a group show); and Selfridges in London, UK (pop-up solo show titled Artefacts).
In addition to that, he had a residency and a solo exhibition in Barcelona, Spain, where he presented his works at Pantocrator Gallery. From that point, every year the number of group and solo exhibitions was only increasing. In 2012, Nick Gentry participated in four group exhibitions, and in 2013 the artist exhibited his work in six group shows. In 2015, Nick Gentry had his first one-man show in Belgium – Memoryscapes at Absolute Art Gallery, and was part of several group ones, such as Urban Art at Opera Gallery in Singapore, Pulse at art far in C24 Gallery in New York, USA and Teknology at Galeria Impakto in Lima, Peru.
Nick Gentry lives and works in London, England.
All images copyright © the artist