Nicole Sleeth

Home: Carbonear, Newfoundland and Labrador
Title: Come Home
Media: Oil on linen
Dimensions: 61 x 51 cm


I paint the female nude because no other subject is worthy of my time. My work explores perception and presence: I use figurative portraits of the female body to understand better the conflicting pressures that have long been imposed on women and because I live with those tensions in myself. The relationships between the real and the ideal, the viewer and the viewed, self-consciousness and inhibition, public consumption and privacy, and desire and regret are embodied in the vessel in which I live and through which I paint. I paint nude portraits of others, but I feel raw and naked in doing so. By observing the bodies of others, I learn to live more fully in my own body. My work dwells in uncertainty, ambiguity, and paradox. There is no resolution—only continued exploration and deepening acceptance. Pithy conclusions and simple messages are not the goals: instead, I spend time in the layered, complex spaces between outward presentation and inner life. Through my work, I learn that exposure can be a form of shelter, and in the grey areas of life, one can find a place of rest.


Nicole Sleeth is a Canadian figurative oil painter whose work centers the female gaze as an exploration of power, connection and lived experience. She brings a classical understanding of the human form and oil painting to her contemporary representations of the nude female figure. Sleeth explores themes of intimacy, desire, gender and sexuality, body image, and self-consciousness. Her works create a powerful tension between the real and the ideal, calling into question the expectations imposed on women externally and from within. They demonstrate a longing for a liberated self, sometimes competing with an acute awareness of the viewer and the viewed. Subtle, shimmering skin tones create a sense of tactile closeness, with large-scale paintings taking on a commanding bodily presence. Since 2010, Sleeth’s paintings have been exhibited in Canada and the United States alongside Lucien Freud and Alex Colville. Her work is in private collections in Canada, the United States, England, and Singapore. She lives and works in Carbonear, Newfoundland.