BROWN, Nigel

Poet Three Times (Triptych)

1980
Oil on canvas
1602 x 1035mm

The subject of these three paintings and others by Nigel Brown is the New Zealand poet James K. Baxter. With Colin McCahon, Baxter is New Zealand’s major religious artist of the post war period. As a school pupil Nigel Brown first heard the poet read his works; while he was at Elam he frequently saw and heard Baxter read. Both had a cynical regard for the value of what was being achieved at Elam during the early 1970s. It was partly Baxter’s influence which encouraged Brown to give up his studies for a period while he lived at Waiheke Island. Baxter’s self appointed role as a living critique of New Zealand society made him an appropriate subject for Brown’s visual criticisms though he has dissociated himself from Baxter’s very public, almost seer-like role saying that he considered himself a suburban man, painting from the midst of life rather than pontificating from a distance. Brown used Baxter as a symbol rather than as subject for portraiture — in Poet Three Times the artist attains monumentality as a poet/prophet figure.