In celebration of the reopening of Tate Britain, Tate Etc. invited a selection of artists from around the world to choose a favoured work from a fellow artist currently on display. Here, Carmen Herrera reflects on Ben Nicholson

  • Ben Nicholson OM, '1921 - circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano)' 1921-circa 1923

    Ben Nicholson OM
    1921 - circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano) 1921-circa 1923
    Oil and pencil on canvas
    support: 457 x 610 mm frame: 596 x 704 x 54 mm
    Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund and the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1989 The Estate of Ben Nicholson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2002

    View the main page for this artwork

I like Nicholson. He is a distiller. He can reduce pictorial forms and ideas to their very essence. One is left with the certainty that only that which is necessary remains. The landscape 1921 – circa 1923 (Cortivallo, Lugano) reminds me of Mondrian’s tree paintings. He was a friend of Mondrian and knew Picasso and cubism well. But he never copied them. He took some of their best ideas and made them his own, translating them into Nicholson, the language. And if you look carefully, you can still see the abstract version of that landscape in the later still life August 1956 (Val d’Orcia).

I also like what I call the ‘estructuras’ very much. These white reliefs, the shifting of the planes from the flat surface, relate to the problems of painting more than to sculpture – teasing with the third dimension that has so obsessed painters since the Renaissance. I think I became aware of his paintings in the Réalités Nouvelles exhibitions in Paris. Maybe 1949? He was never austere, dry, or rigid. A true distiller always leaves an aromatic and delicious spirit.

Carmen Herrera (born 1915) lives and works in New York City