The multidisciplinary practice of Australian artist Dr Clare Nicholson is inextricably concerned with subjectivity – whether human, non-human animal or human-environment relations. Nicholson explores, and often takes apart, persistent or dominant cultural tropes to reveal counter narratives and unsettling truths. Aesthetically seductive, Nicholson’s work paradoxically lulls and challenges in order to make profound statements regarding the making of meaning. By employing critical material practices, Nicholson draws on feminist and new materialist theories, entangling and embedding nuanced, multifaceted conceptualisation within her sculpture and painting practice.
Nicholson was awarded the highly prestigious University of New South Wales Dean’s Award for making an outstanding PhD contribution to new knowledge with her doctorate, Speculative Obstetric Models: Material Remakings of Historical Anatomical Models and Contemporary Epigenetic Agency. Her research probed the fields of medicine and science through epigenetics and maternal-foetal programming. For this work she was a recipient of a generous Commonwealth Government Postgraduate Research Award.
Nicholson’s literature is published within scholarly journals and she co-authored Sustaining Seas: Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020). Apart from exhibiting and writing, Nicholson also presents at academic conferences and works as an educator.
PhD thesis: https://www.unsworks.unsw.edu.au/permalink/f/5gm2j3/unsworks_71178
“A genuinely multi-disciplinary PhD that moves in mutually enriching ways between scientific, humanistic and artistic perspectives. It makes a valuable contribution to the increasingly important field of contemporary feminist art that engages with aspects of science, technology and medicine … in addition, the project also represents an original and significant contribution to work in feminist science and technology studies, as well as to the visual history of medicine. This is an impressive achievement.”
Associate Professor Elizabeth Stephens.
“Rather than outsourcing all of the challenging aspects of (her sculptural) works, Clare developed and refined her excellent sculptural skills. There is an exacting detail and precision in her processes. Fundamental to this is Clare’s depth of understanding of what is required in the process of making: her research into her materials … the meaning of the material historically and in contemporary society – to speculation on the future of the material, the relationality and intra-actions of the materials.”
Dr Kath Fries
Nicholson holds a Master of Fine Art with a First Class Honours equivalent for her research into the cruelty of the racehorse industry titled BredWinners: A Critique of the Horseracing Industry and the Transference of Anthropomorphic Attitudes from One Generation To The Next. For this thesis Nicholson was nominated for the Dean’s Award for academic excellence.
Nicholson holds a Graduate Diploma of Education and has taught Indigenous high school students in rural and remote locations within Australia.
Masters by Research thesis: https://www.unsworks.unsw.edu.au/permalink/f/5gm2j3/unsworks_35360
“The objects are perfectly crafted, the skill … is quite astonishing, it is impossible not to be impressed by the fine craftsmanship and somehow this perfection adds to the carnivalesque atmosphere generated by the work. The rocking horses, roundabouts and hobbyhorses add to the ritualistic quality of some sort of ancient rite. The origin of the word Carnival is associated with the word ‘carn’ meaning flesh. It seems appropriate in this context to think of an act of vicious celebration, the horse race, or carnival, with an underbelly of death, the ‘carn’ or the death of the horse.”
Dr Anne Graham.
“An arresting, imaginative body of work that involved close observation, meticulous attention to detail, and an ability to express ideas both two-dimensionally and three-dimensionally with equal rigor. Nicholson excels at evaluating and researching to clarify and consolidate her ideas in a coherent way…her works are challenging, refined, rhythmic and hypnotic.”
Ingrid Van Dyk.
“Clare Nicholson is unafraid of those things dark and seductive. In the same vein as Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, Clare’s work references haunting fairy tales, loss of innocence, human cruelty, and the mutability of nature. Her unsettling gaze seems to be on nature disrupted and grotesque. She builds, carves, and guilds … from wood, clay, and bronze. Initially seductive in appearance, upon closer examination Clare’s art reveals that things are not as they seem. Masterfully constructed and dynamically posed … Clare’s work explores the battle between nature and the desire of humanity to master it regardless of the costs.”
UNSW Art & Design.
© 2021 Clare Nicholson