Nigel Brown in Forbes Magazine on the image of clean, green NZ

 Nigel Brown has just appeared in the most recent Forbes magazine, in an article titled Nigel Brown: A New Zealand Original (this we know). Following is the introduction to a long and incisive interview between Nigel and Michael Tobias covering many issues such as the environment, the role of the artist in responding to environmental and other social issues, NZ’s representation as a clean green country, the tenuous nature of NZ’s ecological values, and the provocative future of Nigels’s work. The full interview can be read online

Meditation on a Rural IdyllIf David Hockney or Gerhard Richter can rightly be considered among the most prolific and brilliant painters alive in the Northern Hemisphere, the same can easily be claimed for the much younger Nigel Brown, down in the Southern Hemisphere and half-way to the Antarctic.

Brown’s commentary on the natural world is visually compelling, his work hanging in the balance of ecological communion that may, or may not be going the way any of us would prefer. Indeed, as an astute observer, thinker and painter focusing to large degree on Nature and environmental paradox, Nigel Brown is one of the most complex and profound narrative storytellers on record.

Brown lives along the South Western coast of the South Island of New Zealand, looking out upon a windswept, sea-crashing Foveaux Strait, with its elusive rocky crags; Whenua Hou (“Codfish Island”) –site of the determined ecological recovery efforts for the great flightless parrot, the kakapo; abutting New Zealand’s third great land mass, the island of Rakiura (“Stewart Island”); as well as the three extinct volcanic Solander islands, named after a scientist aboard Captain Cook’s ship Endeavor – and sighted in March of 1770. To the Maori, these mystical lost horizons are called Hautere, “flying wind.” Upon Solander’s vertiginous Pleistocene steeps – soaring to over 100 stories – Buller’s Albatross breed, amid some 53 floral species dominated by tenacious fern and orchid.

In this “lost world” of the southern ocean, Nigel Brown and his partner Sue McLaughlin have dwelt since 2001, having given up city life far to the North, in Auckland, to be nestled between thundering waves and luscious meadow, wherein several companion Scottish Highland bovines –primeval, shaggy and brooding – meander gracefully.

Sue and Nigel’s art deco home combines a sleek modernist addition, along side a two-story atelier with renovated rural barns. Around this perfect ensemble are sprawling windbreaks of Macrocarpa, flax and cabbage tree, the iconic species utilized by early agricultural settlers in New Zealand for holding back constant gale-force winds. Five seasons per hour, ten rainbows per minute, some days. At night, says Nigel, he and Sue hear the fantastic harrowing cry of Moreporks/ruru, New Zealand’s only surviving native owl. In Winter this far South, draped by air as pellucid and crisp as any in the world, the stars overhead are of the original Earth, chilled and sprawling.

Brown invites consideration of the New Zealand rural idyll that has always been the region’s indelible identity. But this great talent also incites a vision of a complex, even flabbergasted society poised upon the brink of ecological mayhem.