Nicolas Party at Jupiter Artland: Cafe Party

View of the colourful mural and tables at Cafe Party

A glimpse of colourful, funky, arboriscape walls from across the courtyard was enough to capture my attention, and draw me in. What followed was a ‘woo hoo!’ moment – it only gets better inside. 

Named in honour of its artist, Nicolas Party, Cafe Party is the tea room at Jupiter Artland near Edinburgh, Scotland. I can imagine how eagerly he jumped at this chance to create a permanent installation in a bustling, working part of the sculpture park. Not only the walls, but the paintings, table tops, lighting and even the plates have been curated for the space.

Mural with trees in fantasy colours and framed pictures of fruit

The artist brings a series of tropes (trees, shrubs, snags, fruit and birds) to galleries and spaces around the world. Paintings are often displayed on backgrounds designed to hold them. Slender wooden picture frames call out the art within art. I love the way the globe lights seem to float, their form echoing the lollipop trees, channeling some kind of alien life force I’ve surely seen in an episode of Star Trek.

A visitor in need of refreshment to fuel a day of seeking out art in fields, woods and exhibition spaces will also find food for the soul in this cafe.

“Fruit scones and Scottish tea for two? A perfect choice. Include yourselves as one more layer in the artwork and I’ll bring it right over.”

The trees, painted from Nicolas’s imagination, defy botanical classification. I think I see lanky floating cloud trees, Italian cypresses on stilts, giant shoe trees and belisha beacon trees, all dressed up for a wedding where the best man is a owl. The artful underplanting of shrubs? I’m not very good on shrubs. Let’s call it boxwood and move swiftly on.

A painting of an androgynous figure with birds

The birdman portrait creates an anchor, calming and formalizing what might otherwise be a jungle. Our gaze is drawn to the human form. In turn, the wide, lilac-lidded eyes seem to follow us around the space, as if we visitors are the things to be surprised by, rather than the mural.

The artist likes us to wonder. I’ve described the fresh-faced figure as a man as that’s how I first interpreted him, but look longer and you are challenged first by the feminine mouth, then the collar, the hairline, the eyeshadow… The pared-back portrait seems able to contain more than one inhabitant, or, at least, one not constrained by the commonplace.

Nicola's Party's naive woodland mural is a colourful backdrop for cafe table

The colours look great together: a little sweeter where the sun creeps in or under a spotlight; moodier in the shade. Shrubs in shades of turquoise, blue-green and purple form a hug around the table. Glass tabletops protect surrealistic faces, hand-painted by Nicolas, that float over a heavy, faux malachite background by Sarah Marinetti. The plates, when they arrive, have fruity faces too. I wonder how many people have tried to hang their hat or coat on the tree snag?

Setting aside all the classic elements of art and interior design, it’s fun. It’s pink. It’s quirky. Put me down as a big fan – where can I go to see a Village Party?

Jupiter Artland has now closed for the season and will reopen in May 2018.

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