Nicola Dickson is a Canberra-based artist whose practice explores the natural world and perceptions of identity with particular reference to Australia’s colonial history. Although primarily a painter, Nicola works with a range of media including drawing, installation, printmaking and ceramics. She says “my practice focuses on communicating the sense of wonder I feel when I encounter strange or novel things in the natural world. Small treasures, large landscapes, living creatures and remnants of past lives and stories folded into locations inspire my practice. My art works aim to convey the fascination that all these things hold for me.” Retracing the footsteps of the 18th/19th century European explorers, naturalists and expedition artists to Australia, Nicola uses archival material from their voyages as a starting point. She re-presents these historical images of people, plants and animals, incorporating imaginary idealised landscapes and decorative forms to enhance the feeling of “other worldliness” that stemmed from these encounters. Her intricate paintings and drawings evoke not only a sense of beauty but also offer an opportunity to find historical resonances in the present.
Nicola Dickson graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the School of Art at the Australian National University in 2003 before undertaking a PhD which she completed in 2010. She has exhibited widely since graduating and, in 2013, was a finalist in the Sulman Prize and, in 2013 and 2014, received a Highly Commended in the Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize. Nicola’s work was included in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition ‘So Fine: Contemporary women artists make Australian history’ in 2018 and is represented in the collections of the Canberra Museum & Gallery and Parliament House. Nicola Dickson has undertaken several residencies including an artist residency in Mildura 2021 and in Rhode Island in 2019.