All artwork in the exhibit is shown below the Biography and Statement.
Nicole’s work centers the female figure as an exploration of power, connection, and lived experience.
Born in Kingston, ON, Nicole met art at an early age through her grandmother, who offered books about Emily Carr and Claude Monet. In encountering Bob Grant’s Fine Art Studio in Ottawa in 1998, Nicole discovered the atelier method of instruction, where she developed a love for the figurative work of the masters, producing intensive studies of Rembrandt, Velazquez, Vermeer, and others. In 2010, following the end of a gallery position in Vancouver, Nicole opened her own atelier to teach and paint full time.
The similarity of oil paint to flesh and a desire to focus exclusively on the figure drew Nicole to painting nudes. She recognized early, and then consistently, two core traits of the masters’ legacy: the lack of agency in representations of female nudes, and the lack of investment in the subjects’ real character. While male figures stared back from the canvas at their creator, female subjects frequently turned their gaze downward, literally rendering them objects, not subjects of looking. Men were accoutered with props of their strength and position, while women were encumbered with materials of devalued and involuntary work. Even clothing among men was styled to enhance physique and status while on women it tightened and diminished stature while hoisting suggestive exposure. Nicole privately committed to defy the very traditions she was enhancing through her exclusive focus on the female nude. The public evidence of this vision is in the paintings themselves.
Nicole’s work has won awards in the Annual International Representational Show by the Federation of Canadian Artists, Figureworks Ottawa, and the Sooke Fine Arts Show, and has been featured in Focus and Boulevard Magazine in Victoria, BC. She has continued her education by participating in workshops at the New York Academy of Art and the Whidbey Island Fine Art Studio, studying with Alyssa Monks, Christopher Pugliese, and Max Ginsburg, and still considers Monet to be one of her greatest influences.
Nicole’s practice, studio and teaching atelier is based in historic Chinatown in downtown Victoria, BC on the unceded Coast Salish Territory of the Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ nations.
The works in All Eyes On You are, at their core, about giving agency to the female subject. This body of work confronts and challenges societal constructs including this age old pearl: the passive and decorative object – a.k.a the female nude. In painting history these ‘objects’ are traditionally called models. In this show, these models have transformed, shedding this label and many of its objective associations. Each model is a confident individual, simultaneously strong and unapologetic. These women intentionally fix their gaze on YOU, the viewer. In turn, you no longer see just a body. You connect directly with a sentient being.
Some practical strategies in my painters toolkit further assist to enliven the senses and give an even more embodied experience with this series. The paintings are rendered larger than life, giving them a bodily presence that makes the interaction between painting and viewer resonate on a human scale. The models are intentionally painted from a higher vantage point so that they look down towards the viewer, further solidifying the transfixing strength of each gaze. The power position of their gazes overrides the raw vulnerability of the flesh. Skin is the only protection we wear every day of our lives; it is the most sensitive organ of the body and is in communion with all of our vital systems. I paint the shape, colours and form of each operant without embellishment, their bodies and skin presented as they exist, fiction and idolization superseded by realistic representation. I also exploit the transformative and malleable qualities of oil paint. The intricacies of the brushstroke, texture, shape, and gesture all work together, enabling me to create hyperreal tones and shades of skin that, some have said, are more skin-like than skin itself.
Who holds the power - the painter, the viewer or the model? The illusionary qualities of oil paint, and the longstanding masculine history of the gaze combine in my work to engage and confront the viewer. My work extends beyond oversimplified quests for power in representation.
Voyeurism is supplanted by accountability and most importantly, connectivity.