Reframing La Femme
In these meticulously hand embroidered pieces Nicole O’Loughlin redefines the male gaze within a contemporary context. Appropriating from the western cannon of fine art, where male painters were revered and domestic arts were allocated to the back of the line, Nicole flips the classical genre of portraiture offering a post-modern take on the female subject. The artist re-examines the notion of the dangerous woman, the seductress or submissive subject, that was continually depicted through fine art and biblical references. Nicole inserts contemporary popular culture figures to replace the demure, submissive and sexualised female subjects with women who stare defiantly at the viewer challenging the historical representation of the female subject.
The choice of embroidery to recreate the paintings reflects on the delegation of the art form to the craft category and lesser value, which occurred around the time of the renaissance. By tapping into the historical lineage of needlework the artist stitches a line from past to present. Women have used embroidery and stitching as their voice for centuries and Nicole continues this ascent to shout with bold colours and gold, mounted in ornate frames to celebrate the feminine.
The work celebrates the changing of the guard on a global scale, with contemporary heroines like Rupaul as a Klimt subject. It also reveres the role models that are presented in pop culture, with Muriel from Muriel’s Wedding, and Kath, Kim and Sharon adorned in pre-Raphaelite and Renaissance styles respectively. Female subjects are revered in these works rendered with admiration and veneration, to honour the female form not just as a body but as an accomplished whole being.