‘Kaka’ is an acrylic on linen artwork by Nigel Brown. This painting is available to purchase at ARTIS Gallery at 280 Parnell Road, Auckland
Nigel Brown enrolled at Elam School of Art in 1968 where he was taught by Pat Hanly, Colin McCahon, Garth Tapper, Greer Twiss and Robert Ellis. McCahon encouraged Brown to pursue his own personal vision and utilize distinct motifs in his work. Brown graduated in 1971 and began exhibiting the following year. He cemented his reputation as an artist in 1977 with his highly acclaimed Lemon Tree series (1977).
Brown has a systematic and workmanlike approach to painting. He works from an initial concept, which is the result of reading and extensive research. Sketches, photographs and other sources are used as a visual back up to develop specifics, leading to works on paper and trial paintings. The artist works from a gesso ground on which he applies a base coat of yellow ochre. The main ideas and words of each work are then sketched in by brush, followed by the initial lines and tones, and the first of five or more layers of paint.
Brown directly and selectively employs history, literature and politics as devices in his artworks. He also uses words in his paintings, a technique that was heavily influenced by the English poet and painter William Blake. At Elam, Colin McCahon suggested that Brown contain his text in a border or boundary, Brown embraced this suggestion and to this day continues to use it.
What makes Nigel Brown’s art practice so appealing is his direct and personal articulation of the realities of the human condition. He is profoundly aware of the relationship between human beings and their environment. In his hands symbolism is a powerful and evocative instrument. The fern, black singlet, dog and driveway, James K. Baxter and Captain Cook, all reflect his experience, his observations and his beliefs. He has woven these into a complex web over a period of more than forty years. In his early work he combined a tension and personal narrative centred on social issues in New Zealand topography. His later work included the socio-political world of the distinctly New South Pacific, while in his current practice, he continues to emphasise his vision of a New Zealand identity.