Animals are her primary subject matter, usually sculpted in straw and plaster. This was unusual for an artist in the 80s, by which time abstract sculpture andinstallation art had become the norms in the art world. Hicks also works on huge sheets of brown paper on which she works up her dynamic charcoal drawings. Many of the sculptures have subsequently been cast in bronze, often with such subtlety that every fragile detail of plaster and straw is reproduced.
To accompany an exhibition at Flowers Gallery in 1993, Robert Heller said:
The only thing precocious about that one-day show was the artist's age: she was only 24. But the work had a maturity of concept and sureness of execution that defied precocity. The life-sized dying bull of straw and hessian, in particular, was a terrifying work, whose physical frailty contrasted with its colossal psychic presence. The Gallery quickly invited Hicks to join its permanent family of artists, and her first one-person show followed in 1985. Such discovery of new talent for the Gallery was a welcome by product of the annual Artist of the Day fortnight. Hicks was by no means unrecognised, though. She was still a student at the Royal College of Art (having got her degree at Chelsea), but had already featured in mixed exhibitions at locales ranging from Christies to Liverpool via Ruskin College. In 1985 however her career blossomed. In addition to the Flowers show, her work was exhibited in Kettle’s Yard, the Hayward Annual, New York, Serpentine, etc.
Hicks has achieved success as an artist, creating public sculptures such as Beetle in Bristol and the second iteration of the Brown Dog Memorial in Battersea Park. She has had major solo shows in leading museums and galleries in Britain and around the world, and has already been honoured with a MBE for her contribution to the visual arts. Hicks recently exhibited Black, 2008 in 'Exhibitionism' at the East Wing, Courtauld Institute of Art at Somerset House 
Sculpture by Nicola Hicks at the Yale Center for British Art 14 November 2013 - 9 March 2014 In this exhibition, Nicola Hicks’s life-size sculptures are placed in the galleries amid objects of the Center's permanent collection, home to one of the world’s most important collections of British animal paintings. Mark Leckey: The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, Hayward Gallery Touring Exhibition The Bluecoat, Liverpool, 16 February - 14 April 2013 Nottingham Contemporary, 27 April - 30 June 2013 De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, 13 July - 20 October 2013 Venice Biennale (virtual exhibition), 1 June - 24 November 2013 This exhibition, curated by Turner prize-winning artist Mark Leckey, explores how our relationships with artworks and common objects alike are being transformed through new information technologies.