Nigel Brown’s Dance of the Origin is an innovative and significant new body of work. This exhibition brings together and restructures aspects of his recent I AM series to establish a fresh direction in his painting.
Brown integrates a symbolic language of native wood pigeon, kiwi, gumboots and weathered board with lines such as “impassive stone” and “life cycle meeting your other” directly quoted from Denys Trussell’s poem. He intertwines the two to produce his own Kiwi vernacular, giving the works a sense of identity and belonging. The paintings are a commentary on the human relationship to life and the land.
In 2001 Brown relocated from central Auckland to Cosy Nook. This move proved central to both his life style and work. “I was struck by how much of a link was here with the New Zealand that you forget about in Auckland.” (1) The rural landscape and environmental conditions of Southland began to infiltrate Brown’s paintings.
Brown’s exhibition reflects the rural environment of Cosy Nook. The landscape is specific and references recognisable landmarks. The artist constructs anthropomorphic scarecrow figures and sculptural towers from the weathered debris of fence posts and corrugated iron familiar to many rural properties. These sculptural components play a significant role. They express a key metaphor of the humanistic properties the land possesses and encapsulate the Kiwi ‘do it yourself’ attitude of using what you have at hand. They celebrate the everyday object by creating something extraordinary, stretching toward the sky in a gesture of hope.
Nigel Brown’s work is allegorical. It delivers stories that are as much literary as painterly. Inscribing the ordinary with symbols, he restores a sense of the sacred to the real world. He works in series, focusing on a specific subject and using a schematic, dramatic presentation in which the paintings have touches and echoes of each other. Social issues, environmental concerns, the specification of ‘actual places’ and ‘actual events’ establish his work as profoundly provincial. There is an expressionistic and humanistic disposition to his work; a narrative morality is present in the artist’s point of view. He creates historic panoramas in which black-edged forms, carved against the Pacific light, reach out to embrace history. (2)
1. Nigel Brown, Go South and Prosper, Sunday Star Times, April 4, 2004.
2. David Eggleton, “In Search of Landmarks,” New Zealand Listener, July 19, 1997.