Horses and I

Alongside his photography and personal diary fragments, artist Nick Turner talked to us about horses and some of his most emotional moments in life.
Words: Ger Ger Images/Journals: Nick Turner

"My work is both an examination of myself and a statement on the primal, bestial nature of man."

Nick Turner is an American artist and photographer. Born in Boston in 1983, he was raised in the Maine countryside and homeschooled until he was 15. At that time, he moved to the South of France and attended a French high school before moving to Toulouse, where he received his International Baccalaureate diploma. He then moved to Paris and later New York City to attend Parsons School of Design, from which he received a bachelor's degree in illustration. Today, Turner lives in the South of France once again.
In his work, Turner says he employs self- portraiture to examine his insecurities, desires, and realities as a man. He explores how one's self-perception affects interactions with others, and thus society at large and the natural world. Turner feels his way through the process instinctually and his work is an emotional documentation of experiences, travels, and places in his personal life.

"Horses represent to me the creatures that most resemble man — strong, but fragile at the same time. I have been riding or around horses consistently since [I was] a young child. This naturally led to a fascination and familiarity with them as subjects and as inspiration."

For Turner, the energy and idea of the horse ultimately evolved beyond the animal's formal representation into much more fragmented and complex work.
"I moved back to the South of France recently, having lived here as a teenager in high school.
There are a lot of histories and memories here. This has made me reevaluate my art and life itself, my connections with people and places, and where to put real focus in life. Coming back here was a 'facing your fear'-type decision but a very good one for growth and a chance to mature as an artist and a man."

"Upon arrival, I pulled up to the huge old house in the center of the town of Pibrac. Unsure of what I would find inside, I knew I had left everything I had been considering my home in New York since moving back here after my mom’s death. I felt like Batman going home to a huge empty house full of family memories and history."

"I realized my mother had a very romanticized view of the world. I think that's somewhat where I got my perspective.
I slept in my old childhood room but would wander into other bedrooms and just sit in them: — there were seven to choose from. I would sit up on the top floor of the house in the smallest room I could find and read in the mornings before going back down. In the afternoons I would walk to the castle next door and just sit there looking into the landscape. I felt like I was going back in time but my mind was unraveling at times."

"Finally, I drove to the coast to surf and escape what I was focusing on. I was completely unsure of what to expect, only having read how heavy and big the waves would get at Hossegor-La Nord."

"I was hoping to find some empty peaks to have to myself and not deal with crowds. It was packed. Fifty guys at least all sitting on the best peaks and masses of people on the beach with cameras or just watching.

It was a colosseum, an exhibition of man and the ocean on display. I paddled out probably 200 meters to the left of the crowds and grabbed a few smaller waves. [...] Maybe this was my coming of age and turning point in life where everything changes and you can’t go back. You can only reshape the way you interact with the world you return to after your journey is over."

"Another trip that was special to me for a few reasons — most of all the loss of my mother — was one to Iceland. There's an element of Iceland that brings me back to my childhood. I spent a large part of it reading about King Arthur and books like C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe or Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. My mind was wrapped up in these grand cinematic adventures that were highly romanticized and full of magic. I was chasing this feeling of comfort and familiarity that can be found in those books, stories read as a young child that shape your intellect and imagination for years to come."

"Nature had always been my refuge and I always felt confident in it. Whether it be with horses or the sea, I had never felt this sense of physical and mental fragility until then. My armor had been cracked and fear was seeping in at every step when I made attempt after attempt to approach the sea."

"I ended up washed onto the rocks on the inside of the cove. I was breathing heavily and was spitting up the cold salty water that forced its way into my wetsuit as I took wave after wave on the head during the horrific paddle out.

The wind had become so strong I had to stay indoors for days. Wind shook walls and brought 30-foot waves slamming into the black volcanic cliffs surrounding me. After days went by, I was determined to try and went in the rain to that spot appropriately named Thor's Point."

"Iceland wasn't rejecting me, it just was there being itself. There is no positive or negative in nature, it just is. Maybe that trip did give me something, just not the quick fix I foolishly expected to get on arrival. It made me realize I alone can heal myself by adapting a new perspective: negative and positive are completely human concepts, nothing else.
Human instincts like fear have always interested me. This adaptive survival mechanism that derives from perceived danger can be adapted for positive or negative. It pushes humans to react in specific circumstances in order to survive. Or that is what its intentions were. In nature, sometimes this instinct becomes self-destructive and that’s what I sought now to understand.

A friend once told me the most noble pursuit in life is truth. When everything is torn down and there's nothing to hide behind, no place to run to, truth is the only thing left."
— Nick Turner