Born in Capetown and raised in Surrey, it wasn’t until Justin Norcott was in his late teens that he realized he had a pure passion for art coursing through his veins. He began fine-tuning his artistic style and was immediately spotted and offered the opportunity to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition.
It was whilst studying for a Fine Art degree at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff that he immersed himself in the work of Rembrandt, Turner, Giacometti and Morandi for the first time. He learned the art of print-making, transforming his drawings into drypoint etchings – an intricate process that he is still as excited by today as he was when he was first cutting his teeth as an artist.
“Drypoint etching involves the scratching of the drawing onto aluminum or copper, using different metal tools to achieve line and tone,” Norcott explains. “Although I also work in other mediums, drypoint etching suits my sensitive style perfectly. It’s very direct and a lot less technical than many other forms of printmaking. The focus is very much about the art itself, not the process. I love the softness and charcoal-like effect. Sketching the image into the metal plate, inking it up and then printing it and seeing it constantly change through each process is still endlessly fascinating for me. I even love the smell you get when you are inking the work – it’s intoxicating.”
He has spent the last few years finding his creative feet, trying to come up with his own unique style whilst remaining true to the spirit of the artists who have influenced him. Norcott has been honing his craft, cutting away even the tiniest hint of excess fat from his work so that there isn’t a line or a smudge out of place.
If drypoint etching has taught him anything after all these years, it’s the simple truth that less is always so much more when it comes to art like this. Norcott is a master of concision and precision; his astonishing figurative skills and painstaking attention to detail work perfectly alongside the subtle, almost impressionistic atmosphere that floats across his wonderfully evocative pictures like steam.
“All artists have their own ways of working, but in terms of what I am ultimately trying to achieve, the atmosphere of the picture is just as integral as line and form. Whether it’s an interesting face or a part of a city at a particular moment, I am totally absorbed by the way people and places change over time.”
His work rewards repeated viewing, revealing itself with time. Full of depth, sensitivity and beauty, Justin Norcott’s mesmerizing pictures have won him a burgeoning reputation and a string of exhibitions at some of London’s most prestigious galleries.