Dressed in SMR Days’

relaxed tailoring for work

or play, the British sculptor

takes us around his home

city of London

“London is my constant,” says British artist Nick Hornby, who grew up in the sedate neighbourhood of Holland Park on the British capital’s western side. The Thames, the Tate, the weather, nostalgia – these are the reasons he says he continues to live and work in the city, creating his fluid, oftentimes vast sculptures in the renovated scrap metal yard he uses as a studio. His most recent project, a debut solo exhibition Zygotes and Confessions at MOSTYN, Wales, saw him take a more intimate approach, with photographs by image-maker Louie Banks liquefied and transposed onto forms reminiscent of traditional portrait busts. “I stopped caring so much about critical theory and more about touch and loss,” he says of the works, which he deems his most personal yet.

As he heads back to work after summer for another busy year – a monumental five-metres tall public commission, a monograph and two solo shows are all upcoming – we capture him on the streets of Bloomsbury in SMR Days’ latest collection. Styled by our creative director Dan May, he wears a relaxed uniform for work or play – workwear-inspired silhouettes and matching sets in soft natural fabrics and vivid prints, our take on tailoring that’s easier than ever.

Tell us a little bit about your background. What first drew you to sculpture as a medium?

I started with pottery at school, but never made a pot. Instead, I started making figures. The kiln was too restrictive, so I moved to plaster, and things quickly escalated...

You’ve called your first UK solo exhibition – Zygotes and Confessions at MOSTYN, Wales – ‘deeply personal’. Could you tell us a little about how the works came about, and what they mean to you?

For a long time, my work was academic and theoretical – dealing with art history and critical theory. Then my mother died, I split up with my long-term partner, and my dad forgot who I was – he has Alzheimer’s – and I stopped caring so much about critical theory and more about touch and loss.

What are you working on at the moment?

Currently a five-metres tall public commission for a site in London – a sort of wobbly horse formed from three-and-a-half-tonnes of corten steel. The engineering is complicated and exciting. I have a large monograph with Anomie Publishing, two other public commissions and two solo shows in the pipeline too.

How has it been working over this past year?

It was one of the busiest years of my life. The pandemic triggered the shift towards more personal work and I rather quickly produced 37 sculptures in 12 months.

A lot has been said about the artist’s uniform. What do you wear to the studio? Do you have go-to pieces which help you work?

Artists threaten systems of power because we float between different social strata: the work of an artist means wearing everything from overalls to tuxedos. In the studio, I’m in overalls and PPE. But hands-on making is only a small part of the work – most days are very varied. The challenge is ‘day-to-night’ clothes that are acceptable in most situations – meetings, van driving, and dinners.

What is your studio space like?

I have just moved into a stunning new studio, a former scrap metal yard renovated in 2006 by ARUP and Powell Architects. It has a sawtooth glass and steel roof that floods the space with light.

You live and work in London, the city in which you grew up. What’s kept you in the city, what do you love about it?

Everything. The Thames,the Tate . The weather. Nostalgia. I bought a flat on the same street I grew up on. So much in life can change, but London is my constant – it’s dependable.

Is there a place you go to get inspired?

The Cast Courts at the V& A have plaster copies of famous sculptures including Michelangelo’s David, Trajan’s Column, and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise. The originals are scattered all over the world but here they are bustling for space in two vast rooms. The casts were made between 1850 and 1880, and they copy objects made from 1100 to 1850. It is an incredible history of histories, where time and space collapse.

SMR Days is all about travel. What is your favourite place to visit in the world, and why?

New York. It has the same pace as London and all the work, culture and fun, but with less responsibility.

Where’s a place you haven’t been but you really want to?

Marfa, Texas.

What will we always find packed in your suitcase?

I’m really ashamed to admit this but I bring my breakfast with me including my bowl and spoon. Life can be quite extreme and discombobulating – I need some constants.

Who is your favourite person to travel with?

I don’t have anyone. That’s on my to-do list.

This season at SMR Days is about freedom, and escape. Where do you feel most free? Where do you go to escape?

It’s not where – it’s when. It’s the day after an exhibition is installed – then, briefly, I am free.