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.

24 Replies to “Nicolas Party at Jupiter Artland: Cafe Party”

  1. Woo-hoo is right! Something else to add to the list of things to see on my fantasy Great Britain tour. The list is getting pretty long.

    1. It was new this year. If you search online you’ll find a picture of it mid-construction with a table jam packed full of paint. I wish I’d taken that picture!

    1. I can imagine it being a bit tricky to reach by bus – there’s a long driveway too! Comfortable walking boots would seem a must.

  2. To be honest I really don’t like the birdman picture, I think the human face is hideous, but the walls and the other pictures are certainly a big ‘wow’ and I love the pink colour 🙂

    1. I was a bit surprised you said hideous. You’ve reminded me of a conversation I had on another blog where various pairs of rocks and shells were being imagined as partners or lovers. I interpreted one pair as recreating Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene while the blogger had imagined them as being estranged. I suppose we all see things different ways.

      I experienced the face in the portrait as a nice presence – mystic, because of the birds. The owl is wonderful with its heart shaped face, and made me think of Harry Potter. But the best thing about art is we are free to pick and choose the bits we like.

    1. One of my favourite Nicolas Party quotes is that he’d like to walk in a forest of all the trees that have been drawn by different painters down the ages.

  3. Yikes. No way could I eat here! My brain would be on overload were I trying to chew and look at the same time. I am in awe over the way the tables carry on with the walls. And I totally agree there’s an element of Star Trek in this. Apparently I had a totally wrong idea of tea rooms!

    1. You could always eat outside, although I thought the choice of artwork (by Helen Chadwick) was slightly strange for a cafe. Probably most people would not know what they were. I know I will have piqued your curiosity, but…

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