In 2015 the artist Nicky Loutit began making paintings and putting down thoughts which evolved as she walked the coast of North Norfolk. New Year's Day Is Black is a visualization of memory; of how our past returns to us when we least expect or want it to. It is a meditation on motherhood, ageing and the journey of a life fully lived.
As the child of prominent members of London's cultural elite in the '40s and '50s, her place was that of an infant hanger-on, mostly ignored by the artistic and intellectual crowd she was born into. But beneath that veneer of bohemian eccentricity, Loutit silently endured a life marked by physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of some of those responsible for her.
Recounting the occasional kindness of the people she knew, including George Orwell, Cyril Connolly and Frances Partridge, alongside the trauma of her abuse, Loutit paints a life which triumphs over regret and adversity. Her story affords those who experience it the chance to be moved and inspired by a remarkable woman in a remarkable way.
Right from the start I found it completely gripping. Beautiful and horrifying... The human story had me at its beck and call the whole way through - utterly extraordinary. The evocation of that very particular loneliness irrelevant children feel was almost unbearable: Congratulations to Nicky Loutit for making work out of the terrible.
What follows is a story of neglect and but also of survival and, in the end, renewal…It is a quietly devastating book, which deserves the widest possible circulation.
Nicky Loutit's words, drawings and paintings combine in an urgent and original way to propel us along the rocky road of her journey. It is disturbing territory and the adventure is brave, compelling and moving.
Can a child's pain be assimilated into art? Can joy emerge from a determination not to turn away from darkness? Do age and introspection have the power to heal the soul? The answer according to Nicky Loutit’s haunting visual memoir is yes, yes, defiantly gloriously yes.