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Contemporary Art Practice (MA)


"I am an unreliable narrator of my own life."

Nelson (she/her) is a contemporary conceptual artist based in London.

At the core of Nelson’s practice is storytelling and the murkiness of the “truth” of one’s recollections. She considers her work an ongoing labour of ascesis, or self-discipline, an elaboration of the self by the self. Her practice embodies radical vulnerability through a combination of object, text and film, but always with the visible presence of the artist’s hand at work as a performative enactment of her subjectivity. Nelson’s work, therefore, often plays with the mess, leakage, and imperfections innate in the human experience. She is interested in the abject and often mixes uncomfortable visual metaphors with dark humour, believing that this will make the work resonate longer with the viewer.

Nelson considers her work part of the auto-ethnographic and auto-theoretical traditions - she uses episodes from her own story as the source of her work, believing it will yield insights about broader contemporary culture. She invites the audience to use the visual interpretations of her experiences as a springboard to explore their own.

Nelson’s work has been exhibited internationally, including a 2023 screening of her short film “He.., I…” at a Tate Late event at Tate Modern, the broadcasting of a sound piece on “Montez Press Radio”, and inclusion in physical and digital exhibitions held by “Woman Made Gallery” in Chicago. Nelson has work in the “Procreate Project Archive” and won the Batsford Prize Fine Art Category in 2022.

black and white painting of a woman's face.  Her fingers pull apart her lips and nose distorting her face.

Perhaps it is a kind of blood-letting, this thing I do. Not of self-harm but a cleansing, a release, a rebalancing. And not of humors but of the labels I bear, the tropes I exist within. 

Am I still the Child I was, naïve to the symbolic systems of culture into which I was born that co-opted my sense of Self and who I could be? She weeps with grief at her victimhood, carried along with the salty wave of her life, crashing through loss and disappointment. She listens intently to the stories of her sisters and awaits the turn of the tide.

Perhaps I am grown rebellious, a bawdy slut hollering at passers-by and flaunting her wares. A perpetrator of shock. She is treacherous, a Femme Castatrice; she is not an object for the male gaze but an active agent, seducing daughters from their “proper” gender roles. She tells them to reject the commodification of their glorious bodies, to cast off the shackles of expectation, and save themselves instead of waiting for another. 

Always I am Mother, exposing my tender heart and bleeding womb, elbow-deep in piss and shit and vomit. She whispers lovingly as she embraces, but her grip is too tight; she threatens to consume all. 

And I become the Witch, the unclean, seeking divergence from the expected, and rejecting explication. She cackles, ready to break open the hairline cracks in the symbolic order, wielding the potent power of the uncanny.

Perhaps I exist within each: their boundaries falter where I have attempted Kintsugi on this fragile vessel using Fool’s Gold. Now I





in-between, puddling dark corruption on the floor. There is no glass pane between us, you and me, nothing to hold me in and you without. I may strike, but understand it is not you I intend to hurt, but the box they place us in together. For I am doubly wicked for refusing to be tidy and for asking you to do the same. 

Yes, perhaps it is a kind of bloodletting, this thing I do.

What can we inherit from the generations before us? Eye colour and face shape indeed, but what else? Situation and context? Memory and pain? A propensity to violence or to creativity?

"The Ties that Bind" is a self-portrait of the fractured and leaking versions of my "self" shaped by my personal history and the memories I can't let go of. Each self is in constant tension as I try to be more than, perhaps better than, possibly cured of, the things I inherited.

textile-based work hanging from a wall and depicting and adult male, adult female and female child in a distorted room
close-up of textile-based work showing a pair of scissors crafted from thread wrapped around wire
Close-up of hand-woven scissors and hand
close-up of a textile based work depicting an adult female looking towards a doorway through which a distorted house can be seen
Close-up of "Mother"
close-up of textile-based work showing a table on which a mirror is standing and a female child and her mirror image are shown
Close-up of "Child" and "Mirror-Child"


Mixed media, primarily machine and hand-sewn textiles


270cm x 150cm x 10cm

"Inheritance" was written to accompany "The Ties that Bind". It was published in "Glimpse" the publication produced by RCA Contemporary Art Practice students. A downloadable version of the text is included below.

text poem
text poem

The "Stultitia" series examines the questions I have asked myself following pivotal events in my personal history about how those events changed the person I became. These questions had an ambiguous effect on my ability to process trauma – whilst they were an attempt at understanding, they ultimately kept me harnessed in time to those events.

But this work is also about the post-Enlightenment drive to categorise, to define in the pursuit of ontological understanding. Trauma has become an object for "therapeutic" cure, to create a clean hygiene layer and prevent contamination between the personal and the societal, between messy, bodily, leaking psychic processes and the rational mind. 

a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
Would I be soiled if I had been his and not his? (2022)
a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
Would I carry her still if I hadn't seen what I have seen? (2022)
a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
Would I have let go of so much if we had been more secure? (2022)
a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
Would my heart be whole if I had wanted her less? (2022)
a white handkerchief alongside a square ruler.  The handkerchief is embroidered with messy and unreadable text.
Would I have forgiven myself if I had been there at the end? (2022)


Photographic prints mounted on foamboard


Each item in the series is 90cm x 60cm x 0.5cm

"Count Your Blessings" is an essay written to accompany the "Stultitia" series. A downloadable version of the full essay is available below.

1. Would I be soiled if I had been his and not his? (extract from "Count Your Blessings")

What can I tell you of my father, your grandfather? It is too simple to say, “he was a bad man”. I know he did bad things, but I didn’t know him long enough, or well enough, to say that was constitutive of the person he was. It pains me, for your sake, to think that the badness was inherent as opposed to acted-out. What would that mean for you, the inheritance diluted at least by your own father’s blood? What would that mean for me? The intermediary, the transmitter, the host. There are parts of me I can trace directly to him. My cold blue eyes, the paleness of my skin, the paintbrush in my hand.

What can I tell you of my stepfather? You met him of course, not very often, and the meetings were clouded by his illness. You don’t remember him now. But he was a good man. I can say that for sure. Before he started to disappear, before the shakes, the memory loss, the bouts of vicious vitriol… he was good. A good father, a good husband, a good man. What would I have been if I had been his and not the other’s? Would I carry a different pain? Would I have inherited another bad? Perhaps I would not be me at all, and perhaps you would not be you.

The humble handkerchief has been used as a mode of expression in the Western world for hundreds of years. They have been waved to say “goodbye”, dropped to say “come here”, knotted to say “I remember”, given to say “good luck”. Decorative styles could be used to give a new look to an old outfit, particularly when other resources were scarce. 

But this handkerchief is not silk or lace, nor coloured or patterned. It is cheap, mass manufactured - it has little value. It is made for practical purposes. To clean, smear, wipe away abject fluids and make the user presentable. To bind the holes in the boundaries, to stop us from leaking out. And once it has done its work, it is secreted away on the person until it has no more use and is thrown away. It is rarely shared. A personal object. 

 When it is pulled out to cover the mouth or nose as we sneeze, we may say “bless you”. In times past, sneezes were thought to be an omen or warning from the gods, a sign of the plague and requiring god’s intervention to protect us. An even more ancient belief was that a sneeze might accidentally expel the spirit from the body unless prevented. What is the hankie in this context then? A net to capture the spirit and force it back? A more solid but still permeable boundary between the self and the non-self?

"There is an intimate relation between lives that are imaged as 'grievable' in Judith Butler's terms and those that are imagined as loveable and liveable in the first place." Sarah Ahmed, The cultural politics of emotion (2014).

After we have gone, who owns our story? Who has the right to tell it?... To change it?

In "And her tears washed away his sins", I examine the public obituary as a site of new mythologies, a provocation of felt pain that is witnessed and absorbed by others, authenticating the grief of those who have loved and lost. The sum of human life is encompassed in a few paragraphs - a person's impact denoted in their symbolic roles: "father", "son", "brother", and "loved one". Where is the space for the ungrievable deaths, the ones lost but not loved: the abusive father, the estranged son, the cruel brother? When the mother-in-grief is still one of our culture's most powerfully constructed icons, can this wound exist alongside the interstitial wound of the "child-in-relief"?

digital drawing of a woman crying whilst holding her breast.  She has a sword piercing her heart and her back.
Concept drawing for final outcome The making of "And her tears washed away his sins" was still in progress when the digital show was uploaded so a drawing of the final outcome is included. Updated images of the final work will be hosted on the artist's website so please click below to see these.
a button linking to the artist's website where images of the completed work are presented
Launch Project


Hand-embroidered whitework on printed linen


75cm x 55cm

"Her last gift to him was a grievable death" was written to accompany "And her tears washed away his sins". An extract is provided here and a full downloadable version is included below.

Once upon a time, a woman gave birth to a Son and three Sisters. The Sisters were agreeable and mild-mannered, but the Son was cruel and selfish. He was blessed, however, with a great gift – he could imagine the most fantastical characters. Fairies, knights, princesses and frogs… demons, witches, and vampires. At first, he used his prodigious talent to decorate the walls of his family’s home, but over time he turned his hand to carving the characters from wood to make incredible toys with which he could act out his deepest fantasies. 

One day, he met a beautiful Girl and charmed her with his toys and stories. The Girl was taken with his handsome face and captivating presence. As they played with the toys, she told him of a dream she had of a sweet doll with eyes the colour of a stormy sea and blood-red lips. The Son quickly fell in love with the Girl and decided to make her the doll from her dreams as a wedding gift. As he carved the wood, he thought of how much he loved the Girl and wanted to possess her, and he filled the Doll with a kind of magic.

After some weeks had passed, the Son asked the Girl to marry him and presented her with the Doll. The Girl was delighted and clutched the Doll to her breast – and as she did so, the Doll came to life! The Doll could move, it could walk and dance, it could open its arms and kiss. But it had no voice. Nevertheless, the Girl could not believe the magic Doll from her dream was hers, and her heart was full of gratitude and admiration for the Son.  Together they presented the magic Doll to the Son’s Mother and told her of their plans to marry. “Ah! Now I am a Grandmother!” she said and wished them both a life of happiness.

But it was not to be, for not long after marrying the Son, the Girl realised he had deceived her. He became jealous and angry and treated her savagely. She cried many bitter tears holding her magic Doll, and the Doll tried comforting her with gentle kisses and fetching her all the things the Girl loved best. But the Doll had no helping words to give, and as the hurt grew and grew, the Girl decided she must leave. She waited until the Son was out and ran out of the door with just the magic Doll in her hands, afraid that the Son would come back and catch her. The Girl was in such a rush that as she fled from the house, she dropped the magic Doll! She turned to pick it up but saw the Son returning and decided she must leave without it.

Work and re-work, looking and re-looking, are key processes within my practice. These prints are digital drawings of scenes from my earlier film work.

The original films can be accessed through my website or Vimeo account.

digital drawing of a woman looking into a mirror.  Her face is covered in tape which distorts her features
Mirror, witch (2022)
Digital drawing of a child smiling as she appears to cut the head from a budgie.
Perhaps it happened like this (2022)
Digitial drawing of a close-up of a woman's hand picking a substance from between the studs on a meat pounder
Residue (2023)
Digital drawing of a woman's hands opening the cavity of a raw chicken.  A knife lies on the table next to the chicken.
Cavity (2023)
Digital drawing of a woman's hand tipping a jar of honey which pools onto the table.
Leak (2023)


Digital drawings