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The Swan

Nicky Deeley


From the Archive

Looking back at Art Licks Issue 10, we interview artist Nicky Deeley to discuss her contribution 'The Swan' that presents a myth-like, dark and haunting dream.

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Holly Willats, Art Licks: Your contribution to Art Licks Issue 10 presents a dark tale of you devouring a swan... where did this story come from?

Nicky Deeley: I have vivid and busy dreams almost every night, some I write down, some I just remember because they were so powerful, and this was one of them.

Have you looked into the symbolism of a swan, or the dream?

If any dreams have particular intensity or beauty I do take time to unpick them, as my subconscious is obviously wanting to tell me something it thinks I need to know. I practice using the dream technique developed by Carl Jung. As the language of dreams is feelings and association based, you write down the elements which were strong (a colour, an object, a person, animal, place, etc.) and then a long list of anything and everything each could possibly represent; you go through the list and one will just 'shine out'.

The shine is your unconscious showing you through intuition what the element represents in your waking life. Then you can start to unpick the message. What's interesting is the more you start doing this, the more 'the unconscious you' realises the messages its sending are working, and your dreams get more frequent, clearer, and more useful. It's an amazing self knowledge tool that I'm surprised more people don't use. Our brains don't fool around just sending silly things at night because you are relaxed, it's just a different language.

The drawings are great! Had you done something like this before?

I hadn't drawn a dream in such a detailed way before, usually to record them I do little sketches in my dream book – but I'm usually half asleep so they look like chicken scratches. For this, I really wanted it to look like a 1970’s children picture book, with folk horror feelings. Revisiting this though prompted me to go back through some favourites, and I think they might end up coming out again in something new.

Has the swan reappeared in your work since?

I don't think so, but the swan’s ghost makes frequent appearances and I do have to remind myself of the good lesson it was trying to teach me.

I've not tried swan brains in real life – I bet they taste the same though.

Nicky Deeley makes films, drawings, costumes, installations and live performances. Her work uses myth and folklore to invent characters who combine human, botanic, and animal characteristics, and whose behaviours are tinted by the lens of folk horror, the occult, and science fiction tropes. She currently lives in Whaingaroa, New Zealand.

Read more on Art Licks Issue 10 / purchase a copy.

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