Nikala Bourke

Nikala Bourke is an emerging Tasmanian artist based in Hobart. Working primarily in photography, printmaking and painting, she completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts ( with Second Class Honours Upper Division) in 2017 at the College of the Arts, University of Tasmania.

Her career as a Peri-operative Registered Nurse inspires her arts practice in many ways. Working alongside people and caring for their wounds influences the intimate and often visceral nature of her work. Celebrating the mystery and enigmatic nature of water and replicating the waters’ edge and the beach landscape is a common thread in her practice.  As is the observation of natural materials, predominantly local flowers, plants and seaweeds.

To fuel her curiosity and experimentation in a visual sense, Nikala utilises light, magnification, glass and water within both analogue and digital photographic processes.  Observing notions of change in form and close representation of structure become evident in her artwork, as does the desire to discover, explore and question the intriguing relationship between ourselves and nature, by using water or the flower as metaphor for many elements of the human psyche. Vibrant colour is a common thread in Nikala’s work.

The Pull of Water

Nikala Bourke is a contemporary Tasmanian photographer working through direct connection and engagement with the natural environment. Her series The Pull of Water aims to remind audiences of the fundamental connections that we all have with the element. Responding to the ebb and flow of water in Browns River, Kingston, Nikala has developed a technique that submerges large, hand-cut sheets of light-sensitive, black and white photographic paper directly under its currents.

This unique site is a haven for Nikala, where she works at night time to expose the paper with light. The sheets are  developed in the darkroom chemicals where the undercurrents, drips, patterns and surface tensions of the tides are revealed. By using this unique camera-less medium of wet-process photograms, tangible imprints are created to record an authentic and personal experience of water immersion.  The one of a kind photogram captures a frozen ‘snapshot’ of the wild and lyrical water that has imprinted itself onto the surface of the paper. As objects, they display the marks of  the process by which they are created in the darkness, including crooked edges, thumb marks and creases from the elements.

Details of the original black and white photograms are scanned at high resolution to create a digital iteration of the process, allowing Nikala to introduce the vibrancy of colour into her work. The material dynamics of the water in paper form allow us to recall the playful vitality of water and to reminisce about the way it makes us feel. The emotional and physical pull that arises when we consider being in, or near, or on the water is the underpinning of this series.

Exhibition description is provided by Penny Contemporary Gallery.

Past Their Prime - A Celebration

These colour filled floral wreaths are circular celebrations of life and its many stages. I have collected petals and observed their transformation over several weeks and months. Their colours and forms blend to combine beautiful compositions which remind me that though they are past their prime, their beauty still allures.

Vibrant, round compositions use the petal as metaphor, representing the physical and intangible changes that occur as we age. The petal is a simile for skin and body and the effects of time that create certain changes as we get older.

I liken them to myself personally as a woman whose body and skin is transforming. Though aging and bodily changes may be inevitable, wisdom, empathy and depth from life experiences prevail.


Nikala Bourke’s work celebrates water and the emotional and cathartic pull that arises when we consider and experience its materiality. Here, the mystery and enigmatic nature of water is reflected in the wet exposure process of creating water photograms.

Large sheets of photographic light-sensitive paper are immersed in the waters of Browns River in Kingston at night and exposed with flash-light to reveal waves, ripples and reflections of the river bed, debris, sand and seaweed, through to dark and mysterious exposures that are reminiscent of the creation of the universe. By employing this immediate, contact-based and camera-less technique, a unique imprint of the interaction with water and landscape is created.

These photograms have been digitally scanned, coloured and printed behind glass to provide further depth and immersion into the water.

Makeup of Humans 2019

As a Peri-operative nurse, I am in very close proximity to patients of all types and ages. Observing their bodies within the context of a brightly lit operating theatre, I see their bodies and skin, wounded, broken down and scarred. Working alongside people and caring for their bodies influences the intimate and often visceral nature of my work.

There are parallels between the vulnerable makeup of humans and that of the short- lived fragility of flowers. I recognise a sad and familiar beauty in their inevitable, underlying physical decline. The gentle and exquisite flower exists along side us. It survives briefly, changing and fading. The imagery and symbolism of flowers soaking in water and breaking down alludes to the transience and brevity of our earthly existence. It expresses the poetic nature of slow collapse and decomposition – the language of beautiful decay.

My art observes close representation of structure and notions of change in form. I am interested in exploring and questioning the intriguing relationship between ourselves and nature. I do this by using myself and flowers as metaphor for many elements of the human psyche, of life, and as a symbol of Vanitas.