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.