Concerning Nurture embodies one of the enduring themes of Nigel Brown’s art practice, the place of humankind within the natural environment. The artist presents an holistic vision of the land where each living organism is part of and contributes to the wairua of a larger whole. While the kiwi, kauri, and tui - the ‘stars’ of New Zealand’s flora and fauna – all feature in Brown’s paintings, the painter also elevates less famous inhabitants of bush, mountain and sea: the pipi, huhu beetle, and the pua o Te Rēinga (Dactylanthus taylorii or wood rose). Men and women are portrayed as kaitiaki, a role that needs to be embraced, suggests Brown, if environmental degradation is to be addressed.
Those familiar with Nigel Brown’s style will recognise the recurring visual motifs of waterfall and ponga, frame and text, wharenui and ark. These are the glyphs Brown uses to give form to his Aotearoa, a country of people who consider themselves deeply bound to nature but which paradoxically has an environmental history full of bush-felling, swamp-draining, and extinctions. In the New Zealand psyche, the black singlet and gumboot-wearing man is most often associated with good farming stock; he turns land into profitable wool, meat, and milk; he is the backbone of the economy and the salt of the earth. Brown reconfigures this ‘hard man’ myth, suggesting that real men nurture, feel, and reflect as well as act. In Incantation For Kākāriki Brown casts the men (and women) in the role of poets; Huia is a lamentation for mankind’s irreversible actions of the past.
Concerning Nurture bears witness to the wrongs of history and protests the ongoing deterioration of our environment in the present. Nigel Brown’s show is also a call to action; he asks us to reconsider our effect on the world we live in and advocates engagement in a way that recognises and values that not only are we part of nature, nature is part of us.