DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Art

Alma Singer: 'Art can challenge what's going on in the world'

When Carla Nizzola was reborn as artist alter ego Alma Singer, she discovered the confidence to use humour in challenging what’s going on politically, socially and environmentally.

Carla Nizzola, aka Alma Singer

Carla Nizzola, aka Alma Singer, creates her message of hope. Image: supplied

“Everything will be OK.” Below a bright rainbow, a message of hope. Everything Is Going To Be OK is the most purely optimistic of a series of works from rising visual arts star Alma Singer, whose debut solo show A for Effort opens this week in Cambridge. 

“The past few years have been quite turbulent. Obviously, we went through a lockdown, which no one had experienced before. And now, we’re going into this kind of weird recession. It’s just been quite difficult for a lot of people,” says Carla Nizzola, the gallery owner behind the Alma Singer alter-ego. 

“I wanted to create something that was really hopeful. Even though times can be tough, it’s not always going to be like that, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

That message – there is a way through dark times – immediately made Nizzola think of Big Issue and our dedication to offering a hand up to people who are struggling. Inspired by conversations with her local vendor, she decided to donate proceeds from the sale of Everything Is Going To Be OK prints to support Big Issue’s work. “I thought it’d be fitting for Big Issue. I completely love what you guys do,” she explains.

Alma Singer. Everything Is Going To Be OK prints
Alma Singer’s Everything Is Going To Be OK prints will be available to buy online from Jealous Gallery – with proceeds going to The Big Issue – on 13 June.

Like listening to music, Nizzola firmly believes art has the ability to support our wellbeing. “I do think that art can help with mental health,” she says. “It can change your mood. As cheesy as it sounds, it is like a mantra.” 

An art school graduate who previously made “really try-hard, abstract paintings”, Nizzola quit being an
artist 15 years ago. She felt that she was trying to become someone she wasn’t, as she struggled with the demands of an art world that is “more of a battle”
for women.  

After changing tack, she became a successful player in getting other artists’ work out there. Granted, there were still some of the same challenges: “As a female gallery owner, I have felt the struggles. There’s so many more male art dealers out there – gallery owners, auction house people. They like to mansplain, and it’s frustrating.” Nizzola now has her own gallery, Extraordinary Objects, and has carved out an identity as a curator who brings together contemporary art with antiquities and beautiful items from the natural world.  

Curation is undoubtedly a creative process, but there was still a niggling artistic gap. Then, at the start of this year, Nizzola was messing around at the kitchen table in the home she shares with her husband, Mike Snelle (who also happens to be one half of highly collectable art duo The Connor Brothers). “My husband and I were just pissing ourselves laughing,” she says. “And he said, you should put this out there.” 

Alma Singer was born. 

“I’ve always struggled a little bit with self-confidence, as Carla,” says Nizzola. “Alma Singer is so different. I like to call her my alter ego. It’s like a rebirth, really. She gives me the confidence to talk about things that I might be shy to talk about as Carla. 

“Alma is a part of me that doesn’t give a shit what people think.” 

As Alma Singer, Nizzola was freed from external expectation, from her worries about whether she’d be “taken seriously”. An explosion of creativity followed, initially finding a home on Instagram, where the combination of humour and bold statements immediately drew in an audience of collectors. Within the first month, Alma had been invited to exhibit at the London Art Fair. Her work has since been included at prestigious auction houses alongside that of Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons and Tracey Emin

Inspiration for Alma Singer’s world comes from David Shrigley, London-based mural artist Lakwena Maciver and Grayson Perry

“His works are so intricate but I think he’s kind of similar in the way that his maps and his prints and pottery talk about the social, political issues but in a tongue-in-cheek way, in a very British way,” Nizzola explains of Perry. 

“Alma Singer flies that British humour, tongue-in-cheek flag.” 

Named after Nizzola’s art teacher’s assessment of her creative skills, A for Effort has gleeful fun mocking the arts world – including wry takes on Hirst’s spot paintings and Koons’s Balloon Dog – but it also tackles more serious topics, still in a playfully naive style.  

“I think the beauty of Alma Singer’s work, is that because it’s so quick, it can be very topical,” says Nizzola. “It can challenge what’s going on politically, socially, environmentally. It can very quickly open discussions. Through art, you can challenge what’s going on in the world.” 

With a dose of that Alma Singer confidence, Nizzola is hosting her alter-ego’s solo show at Extraordinary Objects, “because, why not?” she laughs. “It has been a real journey for me this year, it’s almost like I’ve felt a bit more Alma. Which has been really positive for my mental health.” 

Now that she’s found a way to escape her own self-doubt, Nizzola hopes to encourage more women to access the mental-health boost of being creative. “I feel like, as a woman in my 30s, I do want to inspire other women,” she says. “If you’re enjoying something, and you feel it’s right, and it makes you happy, then give it a go. Who gives a fuck what people think?” 

A For Effort, the first solo show from Alma Singer, opens at Extraordinary Objects on
10 June. extraordinaryobjects.co.uk
 

Everything Is Going To Be OK  prints will be available to buy online from Jealous Gallery – with proceeds going to The Big Issue – on 13 June. jealousgallery.com

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
'Each brush tells a story of hope': Homeless artist hosts exhibition to help himself off the streets
homeless artist David Bedford
Homelessness

'Each brush tells a story of hope': Homeless artist hosts exhibition to help himself off the streets

Those wounded by the Troubles still walk among us. Their pain is as relevant today as ever
Art

Those wounded by the Troubles still walk among us. Their pain is as relevant today as ever

Artist Aasen Stephenson turns leaves into astounding works of art: 'Nothing beats what nature makes'
The Leaf Man at work in his studio
Art

Artist Aasen Stephenson turns leaves into astounding works of art: 'Nothing beats what nature makes'

Artist Ray Young: 'Our government is threatening disabled people's rights – there's no compassion'
Theatre

Artist Ray Young: 'Our government is threatening disabled people's rights – there's no compassion'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know