Frame of Mind: Pippa Nissen of Nissen Richards Studio

Discover how the works of art in the National Gallery and Tate’s permanent collections have inspired Pippa Nissen, director, Nissen Richards Studio.

Words: Pippa Nissen, director, Nissen Richards Studio

Stefan Themerson Untitled, 1928

Tate © Themerson EstateTate © Themerson Estate

I love the way this artwork is photographic but feels dreamy. In my work, this is something that has always interested me – how you can look at something real and yet it goes deeper than the subject matter. In the context of exhibition design, this helps unlock meaning through finding emotional connections between viewers and objects, unleashing the imagination and dreams. I see so many things here: a dance, landscape, movement, stillness, bird, person, room… I begin to make up my own story for what’s happening. I love that.

Jean Hélion Ile De France, 1935

Tate © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

This period in painting and style really resonates with me. Firstly, it’s a very beautiful and geometrically pleasing composition, with the close colours shifting around in tone. Secondly, it can be read at any scale. It’s probably meant to be objects on a table, but it could also be people in a room or buildings in a city. This kind of thinking helps us feel a connection between things and our surroundings – techniques we also use in our work.

Understanding that objects are part of a wider context and that telescoping scale makes us connect in detail is a really useful idea in exhibition design.

Roy Lichtenstein Whaam! 1963

Tate © Estate of Roy LichtensteinTate © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

This really reminds me of being a teenager – and, funnily enough, my two teenage daughters now love this print and pop art more generally too. There’s something about the pure joy of cartoons, whatever the subject matter, that makes them incredibly accessible. And the way, close up, the works are so obviously handmade makes them magical. I remember feeling exhilarated when I first saw this and I still get that same feeling. It elevates our own doodles and thoughts into something worthy of an art gallery. It gives me permission. Anything goes.

Pippa Nissen, director, Nissen Richards Studio

Pippa Nissen is an architect, theatre designer and founding director of Nissen Richards Studio, which is 10 years old this year. It works with many of the world’s greatest cultural institutions on both architectural and exhibition design projects, creating beautifully designed spaces for people to come to, be stimulated by, enjoy and remember.

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