10 – 27 August 2017
about the exhibition
Nicola Dickson’s paintings explore perceptions of the natural world of Australia, with this exhibition drawing inspiration from the Bruni d’Entrecasteaux expedition to Australia and the Pacific in 1791-94 and, in particular, the records ofthe naturalist Jacques Julien Houtou Labillardière. During the expedition, thousands of specimens were collected and the documentation of these published in a journal account of the voyage accompanied by an atlas of engravings, mostly derived from drawings made by the expedition artist Jean Piron. The three ‘Encounter’ works in the entrance to this exhibition are based on some of these engraving, recombined with traditional Tongan patterning. The melding of imagery is a reference to the dynamic, unpredictable nature of cross-cultural encounters that occurred between the voyagers and the indigenous people they met. The main focus of the exhibition, however, is on Labillardière’s account of the seven weeks he spentaround the Labillardière Peninsula, Recherche Bay and Bruny Island in south-eastern Tasmania. In 2016, Nicola spent three weeks at the same locations in Tasmania re-tracing Labillardière’s journey. According to Nicola, the paintings shown here“try to capture my experience of this locality, informed by both my experiences in the present and knowledge of past events. Some paintings represent parts of the historical drawings and topographical maps that Piron made or the engravings found in Labillardière’s atlas. Other paintings are derived from my photographs. These were taken of areas that Labillardière visited and of endemic birds and animals now preserved in local natural history museums.” Nicola utilises decorative conventions used to depict landscape in the late 18th century, including flat shallow spaces of Chinoiserie wallpapers and the landscape vignettes of Sevres porcelain, which enables her to “refer to the combined role of observation and imagination,in the sense of place I experienced.” Nicola’s highly detailed and intricate paintings 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. Her work is represented in the collections of the Canberra Museum and Gallery and Parliament House.