In the Royal Academy Courtyard, ‘The Meddling Fiend’ by Nicola Turner Connects the Living with the Past

“The Meddling Fiend” (2024). Installation view at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photos by Maxwell Attenborough. All images © Nicola Turner, shared with permission

For more than 250 years, London’s Royal Academy of Arts—known today simply as the RA—has held the world’s largest open-submission exhibition annually. The Summer Exhibition showcases hundreds of works by British artists and architects, merging displays by Royal Academicians and leading figures with entries from emerging practitioners and the public.

This year, artist Nicola Turner was invited to respond to the bronze statue of English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds in the institution’s courtyard, nodding to the 18th-century artist’s legacy as the founder and first president of the RA. Turner’s monumental, undulating sculpture, “The Meddling Fiend,” appears to move on spindly legs and rise up to meet Reynolds, who holds a hand out to greet a delicate tendril.

Turner draws on a background in set and costume design to create elaborate, site-specific installations and sculptures, which juxtapose materials in bold ways. She repurposes freshly shorn wool or cushion fill into bulging forms that interact with landscapes, walls, or architectural interiors. Her work often touches on dualistic themes, such as the interconnections of life and death, attraction and repulsion, and the human and non-human.

“In my practice, I use ‘dead’ matter, including wool and horsehair, a material salvaged from old mattresses and furniture, therefore absorbed with a lived history from both its time as a domestic object and as part of an animal,” she says in a statement. “Material with such agency, amassed together, emanates a powerful presence.”

Simultaneously monstrous and gentle, Turner’s piece at the RA presents a writhing creature that emerges from netting filled with soft material. Its feet are punctuated by furniture legs and casters, suggesting an awkward, slippery grip on its surroundings, while a confident head and limbs reach up to meet the bronze monument of Reynolds, connecting the past to the present.

Summer Exhbition 2024 runs from June 18 to August 18. Explore more on the artist’s website and Instagram.

[embedded content]

Do stories and artists like this matter to you? Become a Colossal Member today and support independent arts publishing for as little as $5 per month. You’ll connect with a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about contemporary art, read articles and newsletters ad-free, sustain our interview series, get discounts and early access to our limited-edition print releases, and much more. Join now!

Source: Art -


23rd Serpentine Pavilion opens in London

In an Imagined Post-Apocalyptic Future, Simon Laveuve’s Eclectic Dwellings Glimpse a Way of Life