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Nicola Godden (born 1959) is a British artist and sculptor.
Nicola specialises inproducing figurative sculptures in bronze. Large commissions have included Icarus for the London 2012 Olympic Village,, the Sir Peter Scott sculpture for the London Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre in Barnes and the Hammersmith Man for the Hammersmith flyover.
The bulk of Nicola’s work has been private work of various sizes, exhibited in galleries across the UK, Ireland and the US.
Born in Germany to Lieutenant Colonel William ‘Bill’ Stanford Godden OBE and Nita Mary Godden (nee McCheyne), Nicola grew up as a British army child — moving to various countries including Kenya and Cyprus. While living in Kenya, her father was given a part in the film Born Free.
Nicola’s artwork has changed enormously over time and gone through many phases depending on where the inspiration to make sculpture has come from. Growing up in Africa and Cyprus — and the people, space and light there — has had a particularly strong influence.
However, despite taking inspiration from various places, Nicola’s work is nearly always based on the human figure — whether in an abstract form or in a more realistic way. Nicola has a fascination with the human form because of the feelings and emotions it conveys, and this is evident in her work, which always tries to evoke the viewer’s own emotional response.
Nicola likes to create original pieces of sculpture in clay or plaster because it is fast and allows her to get the ideas out quickly. Nicola starts with a metal supporting armature and uses aluminium wire to produce the rough shape she is after and then goes from there, usually adding clay or plaster. Ideas are rarely drawn before working as Nicola likes to maintain spontaneity and get ideas as she works.
After college, she created one figure for Madame Tussauds (Windsor exhibition) which paid for the first few months’ rent at a studio workspace set up in Chiswick — the Barley Mow Centre, where Roddy Llewelyn was starting up his garden design business.
Nicola’s first commission came through Llewelyn for a private client, and she was then featured in his book Beautiful Backyards, which is still on sale today. While working at the Barley Mow Centre in 1983, Nicola created a portrait of Leonard Rossiter for the BBC TV South programme The Cellar Show — hosted by the then up-and-coming comedian John Sessions.
In the early 1980s, Nicola met Tom Caldwell at the Bath Contemporary Arts Fair through her dear friend and influence sculptor Clifford Cundy. Caldwell and Godden formed a long friendship, and she has now been exhibiting with his galleries in Dublin and Belfast for over 20 years.
Nicola was elected as a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors in 1993.
Following a meeting with Trevor Osborne of Speyhawk, Nicola produced many site-specific sculptures for various new buildings all over the country — including the Hammersmith Man figure, which was unveiled by George Melly and sat overlooking the Hammersmith flyover for 15 years.
Besides the UK, Nicola’s works are included in private collections in America, Portugal, Turkey, India, Germany, France and Ireland.
Nicola was, and still is, a keen environmentalist. Over the years, she has arranged and hosted charity exhibitions for FOE and WWF, getting Dave Allen to open one of the events through friends Kate and Bill Cotton.
• Royal Academy Business Gallery at The Royal Academy
• Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden — since the early ‘90s
• Tom Caldwell Galleries — since the ‘80s
• Pippy Houldsworth Fine Art Gallery
• The McHardy Sculpture Company
• Hiscox Art Café
• Hay Hill Gallery, Cork Street and Baker Street — since 2012
• The Sculpture Park — since 2005
• Sculpture by the Lakes 2021
Since starting her career in 1982, Nicola has produced several artworks as corporate commissions, including for Speyhawk real estate agency, Stakis Hotels and Mount Row Properties.
In 1984, she was commissioned by the Healthcare Capital Corporation to produce her Mother and Child sculpture for their head office. Commonwealth Properties then commissioned the unique Mother and Child II sculpture in 1991 for the main foyer of the Fitzwilliam building in St Mary Axe in London.
Portrait work has included a Leonard Rossiter (actor) portrait — commissioned by the BBC — as well as depictions of Harry Edwards (healer) and Acker Bilk (clarinettist). Nicola has also created awards for the British Canoe Union and the 1986 St. James’s Club awards.
Hammersmith Man — George Melly/Polygram Group
The Hammersmith Man sculpture was commissioned in 1987 by a property company for its new building — Queen Caroline House — overlooking the Hammersmith flyover in London. The building was occupied by the Polygram Group at the time and the figure looked uncannily like the chairman.
The idea for the work was that it would be eye-catching and fun for the commuters coming into London every morning. It was cast into resin by Alec Ryman and his team before being painted. The figure, which was over three metres long, was unveiled by George Melly in July 1987 and remained in situ for 15 years.
Sir Peter Scott Memorial — The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
Commissioned by The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trusts along with Berkeley Homes, this monumental piece of sculpture was completed in 1999 and unveiled by Sir David Attenborough in 2000. The piece had to be constructed at the Bronze Art Foundry because of its size and is now sited at the entrance of the London Wildfowl and Wetlands Site in Barnes, London and stands at over seven feet high.
Sir Peter Scott was the only son of Robert Falcon Scott (‘Scott of the Antarctic’). A prolific painter, he started The World Wildlife Fund (now The Worldwide Fund for Nature) and created the first Wildfowl and Wetlands Centre at Slimbridge. The sculpture not only has the figure of the late Sir Peter Scott but also two Bewick’s swans, which are depicted at his feet. He is shown drawing the wildfowl.
Icarus — London 2012 Olympics
Nicola was commissioned to make a piece of sculpture for the London Olympics in 2012. The figure is of the life-sized boy Icarus, son of Daedalus, about to leap off into the sky and freedom. Nicola had long been fascinated by the Icarus myth, and found him an inspiring figure of daring, youthful courage and optimism.
The original work was made in clay and plaster and took many months to make. It was then cast into bronze and transported to London and placed in the central competitor’s area in the Olympic Village during both the Olympics and the Paralympics in 2012. She has since gone on to create nine more Icarus figures (and counting).
Green Swan Awards trophy
The Green Swan Awards spotlight exponential solutions to wicked problems that make the seemingly impossible virtually inevitable, celebrating past achievements and spurring future innovation. In 2019, John Elkington commissioned Nicola to create a new trophy for these awards. Nicola has always wanted to help save the world, so this was a wonderful and deeply satisfying project for her to be involved with.
The first three people to receive the Green Swan trophy are Dennis Hayes, founder of Earth Day Network; Tim Smit, founder and executive co-chair of Eden Project International; and Sacha Dench, founder of Conservation Without Borders.
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