Nigel Roderick Brown, ONZM (born 1949) is a New Zealand painter living in coastal Southland whose work is mainly about the history of New Zealand and its natives. As a young boy he spent much of his life growing up in a packing shed (wool shed or fruit packing shed - rural) in Tauranga. This may have influenced his strong symbolism of iconic New Zealand items (Weetbix,Pavlova, Black singlet, muscly NZ man).
Brown was born in Invercargill, and graduated from the University of Auckland Elam School of Fine Arts in 1971 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. While attending Elam Art School, he was inspired by expressionism, taught by Garth Tapper and influenced by painter Colin McCahon whom he studied under for three years. Mâori artist Fred Graham also inspired Brown with tales of Mâori legends.
Brown has been a full-time artist since 1972. He has exhibited extensively in public and private galleries throughout New Zealand and has had several touring exhibitions. Brown's paintings use a lot of brown and black so that they look natural. Words are often incorporated into the border of Browns works, reinforcing the idea that paintings are a form of social dialogue. Brown describes himself as an expressive realist or symbolic expressionist. He admires Edvard Munch (1863–1944) and German Expressionism, the influence of which is also evident in this work. Brown's Pacific locality is also very important to him and he draws inspiration from Mâori, Pacific Island and Aboriginal art as well as European exploration and settlement of the area.
In the 1980s, influenced by Philip Clairmont, he began experimenting with the woodcut printmaking process, appreciating the simplicity and strength of the medium. He continues to experiment with printmaking techniques.
Brown has also undertaken two significant stained glass window designs – St Mary’s Catholic Church, Auckland (1991) and Auckland Cathedral, Parnell (1998). In 1998 he travelled to Antarctica as the first Arts Fellow in the “Artist to Antarctica “program.
Brown was awarded the Order of NZ Merit for Services to painting and printmaking in 2004 and in 2005 Brown was awarded a three-week residency in Russia hosted by NZ’s then ambassador in Moscow.
Brown's work uses a lot of symbolism. His axeman, who wears a black singlet, represents colonisers. His dog represents a strong sense of self. He uses kites and rockets to represent deep thoughts and high spirituality. The ark to represent salvation and hope. The moon suggests intuition and mystery.
His themes are abstraction, symbolism and expressionism.
- O'Brien, Gregory (1991). "Nigel Brown" Random Century Publisher. ISBN 1-86941-107-2 (pbk.)
- Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Nigel Brown Collection http://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/Party.aspx?irn=306
- Auckland City Art Gallery Nigel Brown Collection http://collection.aucklandartgallery.govt.nz/collection/results.do?view=detail&db=person&mode=1&id=173
- Christchurch Art Gallery Nigel Brown Information Sheet http://www.christchurchartgallery.org.nz/Collection/Infosheets/78_43.pdf
- Antarctica New Zealand Antarctica Arts Fellows http://www.antarcticanz.govt.nz/research/1098
- New Zealand New Year's Honours List 2004 O.N.Z.M. http://www.dpmc.govt.nz/honours/lists/list.asp?id=25
- Interview with Nigel Brown as conducted by Denys Trussell for the Cultural Icons project. Audio and video.
- Art New Zealand: Nigel Brown - Gains & Losses (Spring 1983)
- Art New Zealand: Nigel Brown - Will to Meaning: A Painter's Language in the Fabric of History (Spring 2007)
- Interview with Nigel Brown as conducted by Richard Wolfe for the Cultural Icons project. Audio and video.