The Library as Incubator Project is pleased to feature the work of Australian artist Nicola Dickson. The two works featured here are from the artist’s Wedgwood Blue Series. – Laura
About the series and her larger body of work, Nicola writes,
“This group of drawings was inspired by a series of jasperware medallions created by Josiah Wedgwood between 1775 and 1780. The medallions featured the white relief portraits of James Cook, Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander, Carolus Linnaeus and Johann Reinhold Forster each mounted on an oval of cobalt blue porcelain. They were made to commemorate the voyages of Cook and the scientific observations and records created during the voyages. The impact of these written and visual records in Britain and Europe was immense, fuelling Imperial expansion and the exoticisation of Australia and the Pacific. My drawings refer to the fact that the wonder initiated by the novel plants, animals and peoples encountered became part of the contextual frame through which Europeans interpreted and interacted with these regions and their indigenous peoples. Within my drawings, plant forms derived from the engravings created from the Endeavour voyage, transform and frame my translation of the portraits of Cook and Banks.”
“The voyages of exploration also were integral to the process of colonisation and White settlement of Australia. The historical record of these events is predominantly constructed from the viewpoint of the coloniser, marked by a dearth of Indigenous narratives. The drawings Wedgwood Blue Trucaninny and Wedgwood Blue Woureddy, derived from the plaster busts produced by Benjamin Law (1835-36), refer to this absence. In these drawings the usual structure of the blue and white Jasperware is reversed. Instead Tasmania’s last Aborigines are represented as featureless silhouettes encased in a framework of European stylised floral patterning. This body of drawings remind the viewer of the labile and contested nature of Australian history.”
How do you identify yourself as an artist (poet, fiction writer, painter, photographer, etc.)?
I am a visual artist who primarily paints and draws.
What is/has been your relationship to libraries?
I use their archives to provide resource material to develop imagery.
Have libraries informed or inspired your work, and if so, how?
Their collections both inspire and inform. I am able to find out about the cultural and historical significance of artefacts and eras, but I am also able to directly look at objects, imagery or texts I am interested in. To see how something was made, to imagine what may have inspired the creator is a very potent stimulus to my imaginative engagement with the past.
Why did you decide to include libraries in your creative process?
I am interested how events and ideas of the past have influenced and persist within current cultural preoccupations. Libraries are cultural institutions where one is able to both factually and imaginatively explore the past and present.
What can libraries do to serve artists?
Libraries are invaluable as they allow direct access to material within the collections and to research tools that enable the artist to search for relevant material – both in that library and other libraries in the country.
As an artist, what would your ideal library look like?
Computers to search the catalogue and lots of big desks where one may draw directly from resource material.
What specific libraries have played a role in your work?
The National Library of Australia, Canberra is the main library I work in. The breath and diversity of the collection is astounding and the staff strongly encourages novel engagement with the collection.
What resources do you use in your library(s)?
I primarily use the on-line catalogues to search for material within the pictures collection. I then request items from this collection and spend time looking at them, documenting and responding to particular things. I also use the main reading room, the rare book, maps and the newspaper collections.
How do you find out about events or resources at your library(s)?
They are well advertised in local newspapers.
What does the phrase “library as incubator” mean to you?
The library provides a quiet space for ideas to grow and develop, with lots of resources to allow the fledging ideas to become big and fat.
From Nicola: I was born and have spent most of my life in Australia. Since childhood I have been fascinated by plants, animals and the natural world around me. This directed my tertiary studies firstly in Veterinary Science and then Visual Art. I completed a PhD in 2010 that examined perceptions of the exotic in Australia. My large and sparsely populated country defined by its unique flora and fauna, harsh environment and troubled relationship with its indigenous people, has strongly informed the paintings and drawings I create. My work can be viewed at www.nicoladickson.com
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