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Dr Nicky Coutts


  • Dr Nicky Coutts
  • Area

    School of Arts & Humanities


    MRes Pathway Leader in Fine Art & Humanities

  • Reader in Fine Art

    • Arts & Humanities Research
  • Nicky works with MA students in the Print program and with MA and Research students across the School of Arts & Humanities.    

  • Biography

  • Nicky Coutts is an artist working in a variety of media, exhibiting regularly in solo and group exhibitions hosted by galleries and institutions worldwide.

    Since completing a research degree in Fine Art, Photography at the RCA in 2001, Nicky has been a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Fine Art at Middlesex University and an Associate Lecturer on the MA Photography program at London College of Communication, University of the Arts. She has also taught widely as a Visiting Lecturer at UCL, Goldsmiths University of London, De Montfort University and Glwyndr University amongst others.

    Nicky’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums such as: the ICA, London; Künsthalle Mainz; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid; Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen and Youkobo Artspace, Tokyo.    

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  • Practice

  • Nicky’s practice has three distinct trajectories. In one she works with groups of trained and untrained performers to look at methods of re-engagement within a community and place. The film Passing Place, for example was set entirely at a remote crossroads in Northumberland. Local people who lived close by were asked to re-enact scenes from feature films that themselves contain significant crossroads scenes such as Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex (1967) and Jarmusch’s Down By Law (1986). Through repeating pre-determined acts of decision and fate, Passing Place examines the role of the actor and their authenticity within the narratives they present. Passing Place was shown at a range of international venues including: Centre Pompidou, Paris; Ha Gamle Prestegard, Havegen, Naerbo, Norway and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin.

    A second strand to Nicky’s practice, also connected to positioning and site, is building structures often commissioned for remote rural landscapes or as part of a long term residency. For example, A Tower in the Minds of Others was made for the Tatton Park Biennale. It was built near the Japanese Garden at Tatton that had been made by English gardeners who had read books on Japanese Garden design, but had never been to Japan. Nicky’s tower resembled a Japanese pagoda, but was made of English garden sheds exposing miscommunication between cultures. The structure Under the Weather made for a shoreline in the Highlands of Scotland similarly retells the story of how a landscape came into being through translating elements of it into an architectural space. Under the Weather was simultaneously a weather station, a hallucinatory viewing chamber and a shelter re-presenting the precarious conditions that gave rise to the inception of a sub-tropical gardens in such a cold climate.

    A third strand is Nicky’s writing practice. She writes for a variety of publishing platforms including books, academic journals and more experimental formats. Her interests centre on approaches to animality through writing. In particular mimetic behaviours and appearances in the animal world feature as a means for getting closer to the animal. A recent essay ‘Animal Print Suicide’ is in press to be published as part of an anthology of writings on contemporary Print (Manchester University Press 2018). Nicky is also working on the collaborative text ‘Giraffe Time’ with Vanessa Ewen from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama for Journal of Photography (also 2018).
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  • External collaborations

  • Nicky works with a series of longterm collaborators including researchers whose focus is the non-human animal and practitioners who innovate acting techniques. She is part of the UAL research hub Theatre of Photography and contributes regularly to ongoing events and projects.

    She also works with actor movement specialists at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and with researchers at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Students from both of the above institutions featured in Nicky’s film All Rise (2015). Nicky also collaborates with instructors of PEM (Perdekamp Emotional Method of acting) working with them most recently on an AcrossRCA project (2016).

    Nicky is a member of the British Animal Studies Network and contributes to events and conferences.

    She is currently working with Cambridge University and The Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany to develop a research project looking at intimacy, mimicry and attraction in our approach to other species.

    In an extension of a Daiwa Foundation and Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Award, Nicky is working with Tokyo University of the Arts and Kyoto City University of the Arts to produce an exhibition and publication titled Future Print Story (2019).

    Nicky was an internal RCA judge for Deutsche Bank and was academic leader for the Professional Development Review commissioned by the RCA (both 2012). She is an external examiner for MA and BA Fine Art at the University of the Creative Arts, Farnham (2013-17) and an Honorary Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester since 2013.
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  • Publications, exhibitions and other outcomes

  • Publications

    Coutts, N. (2017). 'Canal Opera', in Simpson, T. (ed.), Art as Research, Pontypridd: Addo, pp.36–57.

    Coutts, N. (2017). 'Mimics 1', in Ullrich, J. and Ulrich, A. (eds.), Tierstudien 11, ‘Mimesis, Mimikry, Mimese’, Berlin: Neofelis Verlag, pp.33–40.

    Coutts, N. (2016). ‘A Distance of Stones’, in Astesani, G. (ed.), Coated in Pre-existence, London: Elizabeth XI Bauer.

    Coutts, N. (2015). Vertigo Rising, Murray, L. (ed.), London: Mantis.

    Coutts, N. (2015). 'Preface' in Zhou, J. (ed.), Intersecting Practice – Contemporary Printmaking in the UK, Hangzhou: China Academy of the Arts, pp. 1–4.

    Coutts, N. (2015). ‘Habitus’, in Guler Ates: New Work, for Art Rio, London: Hauser and Wirth.

    Coutts, N. (2014). 'Animal Print Suicide' in Taylor, F. (ed.), Against Nature - Printmare 1, London: Camberwell Press pp. 19–27.

    Coutts, N. (2013). 'Night for Day' in Between, Before and After, MA Printmaking Catalogue, London: Royal College of Art.

    Coutts, N. (2012). 'A Forming State: Do Not Destroy' in A Forming State, MA Photography Catalogue, London: London College of Communication, University of the Arts, pp.4–6.

    Coutts, N. (2011). Thought Sequence, Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Berlin: Argo Books.

    Coutts, N. (2010). 'Postcards' in Warstat A. (ed.), Parallax Journal, ‘The Question of the Image’, Issue 55, pp.44–56.

    Coutts, N. (2009). 'Exterminating Angel' in Something is bound to happen, by Heather Phillipson, Swansea: Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

    Coutts, N. (2008). 'The Returning Fog' in Brilliant Failures, by Siobhan Tattan, Cork: Triskel Arts Centre, pp. 3-7.

    Residencies, Commissions and Prizes

    (2016–2017) Emscher Newtown Research Residency, Arts Council Wales, Addo, Canal and River Trust and Emscherkünst, Dortmund, Germany.

    (2014) Signature Artist, National Trust for Scotland and Creative Scotland in The Year of Natural Scotland.

    (2012) International Fellow, Kultur Steiermark, Rondo Studios, Graz, Austria

    (2011) Oriel Mostyn Open, Wales

    (2011) Salon Video Prize, Matt Roberts Arts, London

    (2011) Residency and screening at Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo, Japan

    (2010) International fellowship, Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral, Germany

    (2009) Commission and residency, Connecting Green and Urban Spaces, Tokyo

    (2008–2009) VARC (Visual Art in Rural Communities)

    (2008) Tatton Park Biennial, Sited commission and Daiwa Foundation Award for research trip to Kyoto, Japan

    (2007) English Heritage Berwick Gymnasium Fellowship

    Solo Exhibitions


    My Previous Life as an Ape, Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art


    Millions Like Us
    , Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London


    Change of Heart
    , Queen’s Hall, Hexham

    Some Other Time, Visual Artists in Rural Communities, Northumberland


    The Discovery of Slowness
    , Danielle Arnaud Contemporary Art, London

    Group Exhibitions


    Flat Image, Exhibit Gallery, London

    Navigations: Art as Research, Oriel Davies Gallery, Wales


    Conjunctively Evolving: Contemporary Arts from China and UK, Yun Contemporary Art, Shanghai


    Intersecting Practices of Contemporary Printmaking in the UK in ChinaChina Academy of Arts Museum, Hangzhou and School of Art & Design Hunan University


    The Negligent Eye, Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool

    Printmare – Against Nature, Camberwell Space, London


    Other Fictions, Fotografisk Center, Copenhagen, Denmark                    

    M.A.N. Inthegallery, Copenhagen, Denmark                  

    Finders Keepers, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London


    Crazee Golf, Tintype Gallery, London

    24 hour Museum, Kunstgarten, Graz, Austria


    KM 500, Künsthalle Mainz, Germany

    Rencontres Internationales: New Cinema and Contemporary Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Haus der Kulturen der Welt and Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid


    Your Garden is Looking a Mess could you please tidy it up, Payne Shurvell Gallery, London


    Doris, Stedefreunde, Berlin, Germany

    Multichannel: Variable Economies, Artsway, New Forest

    Ha Gamle Prestegard, Havegen, Naerbo, Norway


    Connecting Green and Urban Space, Zempukuji Park, Tokyo

    Is Mary Here Again?, Waygood Gallery, Newcastle and the Northern Print Biennial

    Skies, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery

    The Animal Gaze, exhibition/symposium, London Metropolitan University

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  • Awards and Grants

  • Future Print Story (2015) is a research project funded by The Daiwa Foundation and Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. It involved a research trip to Japan for five researchers associated with the RCA to facilitate experimental workshops exploring the mimetic faculty at Tokyo, University of the Arts, Kyoto City University of the Arts and Osaka University. 

    Six-month international fellowship at Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral to support individual practice and research. Nicky Coutts made the film Reminiszenzen der Erinnerung (2010) and the book Thought Sequences (Berlin, Argobooks) during this period.

    Research trip to Tokyo supported by the Saskawa Foundation and the University of the Arts to develop an artwork Eastern (2010) for the exhibition Connecting Green and Urban Space.

    Diawa Foundation Award (2008) for a research trip to Kyoto, awarded to enable research of pagodas, informing a work commissioned for the Tatton Park Biennial (2008).

Selected work


Research interests

Current and recent research

Coutts, N. and Ewan, V., (2018) ‘Giraffe Time. In: ed. Leister, W. and Anderson, J., Journal of Photography and Culture, London: Taylor and Francis, Volume 11.
A collaborative text with Vanessa Ewan, Senior Tutor in Actor Movement, and a specialist in Animal Movement, at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. The text is commissioned for a special edition of Journal of Photography and Culture to be edited by the interdisciplinary UAL research hub Theatre of Photography, bringing together academics and practitioners from Photography and Acting.

Future Print Story

Future Print Story (2015) is a research project funded by The Daiwa Foundation and Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. It involved a research trip to Japan for five researchers associated with the RCA to facilitate experimental workshops at Tokyo, University of the Arts, Kyoto City University of the Arts and Osaka University. The research sessions involved Fine Art staff, BA, MA and research students and explored the mimetic faculty. 

Research students