Turning conventional notions of ‘classical beauty’ on its head, Dr. Nicholson’s visceral works deliberately dismantle cultural norms to question and probe how we are primed to appreciate and understand somatic beauty and the hierarchical ordering of human/animal/environmental interactions. Her distinctive sculptures are precise and uncompromising, sublimely referencing iconic classicism through the use of traditional realism with materialities spanning antiquity and contemporary technologies. Through this, Nicholson ruptures boundaries – socially, culturally and aesthetically.
“As practice-led PhD project, Nicholson’s research critically examines the visual and intellectual traditions by which medical and cultural knowledge about maternal bodies is (re)produced. This is 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. As such, in addition to feminist (sci-)art practice, the project also represents an original and significant contribution to work in feminist science and technology studies as well as the visual history of medicine.
The two parts of this project – the exhibition Epigenetic Maternal Landscapes, and the dissertation, Speculative Obstetric Models: Material Remakings of Historical Anatomical Models and Contemporary Epigenetic Agency– together represent a highly successful study of the possibilities for a more situated, dynamic and relational approach to the pregnant body. This is 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. As such, and 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.
“Clare’s creative practice thesis, Speculative Obstetric Models, in both the dissertation and the exhibition, successfully demonstrates how a material feminist framework can contribute to epigenetic discourse by creatively bringing carefully nuanced visual discourses into epigenetics, contemporary art and public discourse. Her sculptures convey a powerful and complex understanding of the maternal–foetal body entangled with exterior environments, in a much more compassionate and extensive manner than standard obstetric models. Clare’s considered research into the intra-actions, symbolism and physical properties of the materials she is working with invite more ‘expansive understandings of the way environments impinge upon bodies within obstetric and developmental representations’.
This practice-based research clearly demonstrates an original contribution to the contemporary art context pertaining to representations of the female body. Clare is specifically ‘re-visioning of the internal maternal-foetal body entangled and ‘mattered’ by exterior environments’, which is rarely (if ever) presented within the contemporary art content in this way. As such Clare’s practice-based research is unique. The professional standard of her exhibition, Epigenetic Maternal Landscapes, was exceptional.”
Dr Kath Fries
© 2021 Clare Nicholson