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Resting with Ancients: Nichola Theakston Invokes Animal Spirits in Her Contemplative Bronze Sculptures
May 31, 2023
As far back as 5,000 years ago, ancient Egyptians worshipped the goddess Bastet, who took the form of a lioness, a fierce warrior deity associated with the sun. She was seen as a protector during pregnancy and childbirth and a defender against evil spirits and diseases. Over time, her likeness adopted the characteristics of a domestic cat, which in later dynasties assumed cult-like status, and the animals were revered and bred for protection and sacrifice. Along with mythological beings such as Sekhmet, another lion-faced, solar goddess of medicine, the deities comprise an integral part of sculptor Nichola Theakston’s soulful exploration into the history, lore, and spirits of animals.
Working in ceramics and bronze, Theakston’s practice (previously) centers on meditative depictions of mammals, drawing on ancient sources to connect viewers with contemporary concerns and timeless perceptions.In her continuing series of primate portraits, the subjects appear calm, meditative, or lost in thought and emphasize her interest in our “commonality and shared consciousness.” With a focus on faces, she often leaves the bodies unfinished, hinting at shoulders or limbs while highlighting the details of jawlines, ears, and brows.
Informed by her work with ceramics, Theakston is constantly evolving her approach to the nuances of texture and color. Each piece, first sculpted by hand before being cast in bronze, bears an organic, expressive approach that spotlights the presence of the artist’s hand. The surfaces feature subtle score marks, nudges, and notches, which draw attention to elegant silhouettes and the supple folds of ears and eyelids. A range of patination techniques, which the artist is consistently experimenting with and developing, create subtle shifts in contrast and hue so no two are exactly alike.
“I have been working recently on canine and feline subjects with reference to ancient Egyptian forebears and sculptural representations,” Theakston tells Colossal. In “Pariah,” the artist’s beloved Mediterranean podenco named Nola mirrors the sleek features of Anubis, the dog-headed Egyptian god of funerary rights and usher to the underworld. “Nola at times seems to very much embody her ancient ancestry and our interwoven human connection with both,” she says.
“Resting with Ancients” will be on view with Sladmore Gallery as part of London Art Week from June 30 to July 7, and if you’re in The Netherlands, you can find her work at Art Laren fair with De KunstSalon, which runs June 16 to 18. Theakston is currently casting a new macaque study at Castle Fine Arts Foundry in Powys, Wales. See more on her website and Instagram.
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