After receiving his National Diploma in Design from Hornsey College of Art, London, where he studied with Bridget Riley and John Hoyland, Nicholson studied painting with Reuben Tam as a Max Beckmann Memorial Scholar at the Brooklyn Museum School of Art. He later received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Vermont College of Norwich University.
He has had 25 one-person exhibitions, including four in New York City. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, notably “AdoRnmenTs,” which originated at the Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in SoHo and traveled nationally; a touring show to American consulates in Brazil; a print exhibition in Germany; and, under the auspices of the Katharina Rich Perlow Gallery, at international art fairs at Miami and Los Angeles. His most recent exhibitions include Dowling College, Oakdale, NY and Stony Brook University Art Gallery, Stony Brook, NY. A fifteen-month exhibition of his recent series, 52 Weeks II, concluded in 2013 at The Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan.
In writing about the artist’s 52 Weeks II, Ariella Budick states, “Roy Nicholson’s eternal subject is the passage of time, but he approaches it obliquely through the garden… The edge of the forest—delicate, cultivated plants to one side, savage sobering woods on the other—is the space where his garden and his paintings both define themselves. If wilderness and culture come together in his tended soil, the canvas is where intentionality meets unbridled imagination. Each is a metaphor for the other”.
His work is in numerous private and several public collections, including Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven CT; the Royal College of Heralds, London, UK; Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, UK; the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY; Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY; Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, NY; the Long Island Museum of American Art, Stony Brook, NY; New Jersey Bell; and Texas Commerce Bank, Houston. His yearlong series, 52 Weeks, was exhibited at the Heckscher Museum of Art in 1998. Following purchase by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the series is now installed in the Bank’s headquarters building.
In the past decade, Nicholson has completed five public art commissions, including one in 2006 for Metro Art Los Angeles, consisting of two 55-foot long glass mosaics and a large skywell for the Gold Line Portal at Union Station. His 2002 glass mosaics for the Long Island Rail Road’s Hicksville station, commissioned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program, were among those honored with a 2003 Masterworks Award from the Municipal Arts Society of New York.
Nicholson has collaborated on four major dances with the choreographer Karla Wolfangle, a former principal dancer for the Paul Taylor Company. Premiered in 2009, Roy Nicholson was performed by the Stockton Dance Company at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, with projections of the artist’s work. It was performed with a larger company in 2010 at Hofstra University on Long Island.
Rhonda Cooper writes that Roy Nicholson “creates lush canvases covered with varying degrees of both abstract and representational forms, displaying a vast range of complex color harmonies and spatial relationships. His paintings not only depict the outward appearance of the garden reality but, invariably, reflect the mind and inner world of the artist as well.
Nicholson is Professor Emeritus, Long Island University, where he received the Trustee’s Award for Scholarly Achievement in 2000. His home and studio are in Sag Harbor, New York.