Nina Molloy

Nina Molloy (b. 09/09/99 Bangkok, Thailand) is a painter based in New York, NY. Nina received her BFA from the New York University in 2022. Molloy’s work has been shown at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Micki Meng, San Francisco, CA and more.
January 30, 2023
Tell us about your practice.
I am following some kind of compulsion to paint spaces, things, and figures that feel carved out and hollow. The techniques applied to get there are more spontaneous than systematic. I try to be thoroughly inventive in every part of the process. For instance, how I prepare the surface of the piece is effectively the armature upon which I respond and build the painting. The narrative comes not only from imagery but from the particular formal and sensuous qualities that paint — existing as material and illusion — can exude. Painting for me somehow engenders the receptivity necessary to see things in themselves.
Your approach towards objects, matters, and materials, whether they are the ones you depict in your paintings or your craft approach towards rendering them, is quite special. Can you tell us about how you approach objects, matters, and materials?
An important thing for me is for me to be receptive to the material — to what’s actually in front of me instead of imposing my will. Sometimes these are things I encounter that move me and I want to experience them in my body and in my hands, and painting allows me to do that. Other times the things fascinate me as indications of human activity and the very human meanings, habits, and projections that can determine how they are received. I’m not sure those two are even separable but wherever it comes from, once I start drawing I try my best to rid my head of ideas and just follow the paint.
The late painter, Wolf Kahn, talks about how it is extremely difficult to listen to yourself when you are painting — most of the time you probably have other’s voices in mind. And when you are finally listening to yourself you are actually listening to the paint.
The scenarios that you portray in your paintings are steeped in Thai spirituality, animism, and folklore. Can you tell us about how you approach the narratives in your paintings?
When I was making some of the paintings in Bangkok I was looking specifically at the theatre and set design, the structures on which landscape painting was predicated. I think that my appreciation of natural landscapes came from being quarantined and spending a lot of time in the garden, painting them from observation. Many things became apparent to me in that garden, and I began to see for myself the meaning of the Thai spirit houses (which funnily enough shares many affinities with set design) and how it is a different way of relating to the landscape than I had known before. I grew up submerged in Thai spirituality, animism, and folklore but did not understand it until I could come to it for myself in painting.
The first large paintings I did there took the San Phra Phum (Thai spirit house) as its conceptual and formal armature and went on from there. Sometimes the things have personal significance but that doesn’t really matter so much. The painting, like a spirit house, is an enclosure that holds the things and figures within its frame, but also produces them. I was moved by some impact of the world and in turn, the world I see and produce has evolved.
Who are the figures that you portray in your paintings?
Most of the time it’s my family because they’re the most willing.
What has been inspiring you lately?
My dad has been woodworking for two years now, following my grandfather. It’s fascinating how working with your hands builds sensitivity to the wood — in a way that reliance on technology dispels. It seems to be the case in any industry that engages with craft, instrument, or sport enhances your sensitivity to the material to the point that you disappear into it. The skills my dad has developed in his hands for distinguishing the different characteristics of wood are invaluable because, as he sees it, it brings about a certain sense of reverence for something beyond yourself. I find the enhanced sensitivity that anyone who excels in their industry has to their craft to be infinitely inspiring because of how close it brings us to something sacred.
What’s next for you?
My first solo show with Micki Meng opens February 20, 2023 – March 17, 2023, at Four One Nine in San Francisco.

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