UNSW Art & Design student Claudia Nicholson has won this year’s prestigious NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship.

The $30,000 award, one of the country’s longest-running art prizes, was presented last night by NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin for her installation Don’t Let Me Down Let Me Down, 2017.

The Colombian born multidisciplinary artist, who was raised in Sydney, explores her heritage and issues around belonging and separation through ceramics, installation, video, performance and painting.

She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2011 from UNSW Art & Design and is currently completing a Master of Fine Arts research degree.

The Fellowship program, funded by Create NSW and run by contemporary art centre Artspace, aims to showcase some of the best emerging art practices in the state and provide a self-directed program of professional development over two years.


Claudia Nicholson's Don’t Let Me Down Let Me Down, 2017. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

As part of her Fellowship, Nicholson will next year travel to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Mexico, to attend religious and cultural festivals to inform research of pre-Columbian ceramics and Chicanx art and culture.

She will complete professional development with curator Ivan Muñiz Reed, and first-hand research into pre-Hispanic and Chicanx art at San Francisco’s Mexican Museum.

“I make work about the Americas so it is very important to go there to research the folklore and pop culture. I'm very limited in what I can do from outside the communities,” Nicholson said.

Her work Don’t Let Me Down Let Me Down is a traditional Colombian silleta, a wearable object made with fresh flowers that has a colonial history rooted in slavery.

“The installation explores histories of power and labour and places them in a new context grappling with its own colonial legacy. I use artisanal practices in an ongoing attempt to situate myself in a history from which I am separated, but enamoured by.”

Artspace Executive Director Alexie Glass-Kantor said this year’s finalists for the Fellowship, seven of whom are former and current UNSW Art & Design students, represented a broad spectrum of practice from artists in the breakthrough stages of their career.

“For 21 years Artspace has hosted the exhibition for the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship and we are immensely proud of the support this initiative has provided for generations of artists."

The Fellowship winner is selected by a panel of industry peers chaired by Adam Porter, Curator Contemporary Visual Art for the Campbelltown Arts Centre.


2017 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship

When: 9 November – 9 December 2017

Where: Artspace

Artist Talks: 25 November, 2pm - The 2017 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship Recipient and Finalists in conversation with curators Talia Linz, Lola Pinder and Alexie Glass-Kantor.