Artist Nicky Nicholls was homeless for 36 years. Abandoned at just ten days old outside Stoke City football ground Nicky, now 70, suffered physical and sexual abuse as a child and was rescued from a paedophile ring by police at age 14. But, after a failed attempt to join the army at 18, Nicky spent 36 years homeless and in and out of institutions – until she came to Croydon in 1999. That year, Nicky first spoke about her experiences in a group therapy session at the Bethlem hospital.
She told The Croydon Advertiser: "It was terrifying, I thought they would beat me up. But they gave me a piece of paper and said 'draw your feelings', and I discovered I could draw."
Nicky’s painting is influenced by these experiences and her surrounding friends, family and the causes she supports. Many compare her work to L.S.Lowry but Nicky hadn’t heard of his work until recently. She started painting on canvas five years ago having previously worked in pastels. "I paint with my feelings and most of it is from the past," she says. "The message is trust because I didn't trust anybody."
Her style of finger painting and using a knife is almost as if she is sculpting her inner child, the child that was beaten and humiliated. It is now through her paintings that Nicky can experience the happy childhood, previously denied to her. Nicky often puts her younger self in the paintings; several feature a small girl with her hair in bunches looking at the scene.
Through her art, Nicky has raised thousands of pounds for charities up and down the country, she’s determined to help as many people as possible free themselves from their past or current difficulties and discover their full potential. She says: "I was never able to give anything to anyone, but now I can give and that's what I want – to be a part of society and belong."
Very generously, Nicky, will be donating profits from the sale of her pictures and merchandise to support the work of St. Mildred’s Homeless Drop-In and APCMH Bridge Project, which meets every Sunday in the Pavilion, St. Mildred’s Centre, offering support and friendship to anybody who has or is recovering from mental illness.
Come and meet the lady herself on Saturday 4th June, at 2pm at St Mildreds Centre with a preview reception and light refreshments.
The exhibition runs until August 2016.