Nigel Brown’s distinctive narrative works draw deeply from the intersection between the natural and human world in Aotearoa. Pictures within pictures, they rely heavily on dialogue between the word frames and images within them - images which are populated by an archetypical New Zealand couple and native New Zealand fauna.
The identities of the couple have shifted over the years of Brown’s practice. They have been settlers clearing the bush, Adam and Eve, and ecologically aware nurturers, but at all times they live in symbiosis with the birds and other creatures of the land. They are the good keen man and woman, the man and woman alone, bushwalkers, alternative lifestylers, ecowarriors. The framing words often reference New Zealand history and culture, connecting with the images on a multitude of levels. In this latest exhibition, the duo are distinctly nurturers of nature. The exhibition’s title, with its reference to the old proverb, makes poignant note of the human tendency to try to put a price on everything, even that a wild nature which is far beyond any dollar value.
The artist’s influences are manifold. We see the early twentieth century French art of Matisse and Gauguin, along with the influence of German expressionism. Pointillism and traditional Aboriginal art are directly invoked in the bold dot-like marking of these images, although Brown himself prefers to call this style “star cluster painting”. (1) Traditional Maori carving is an influence on the framing, and the conceit of using words to surround the images turns them into secular yet spiritual icons of an ideal world where humans coexist with nature.
1. Artist’s statement, December 2016