For nearly two decades, Nigel Van Wieck has been evolving a distinctive idiom firmly rooted in the tradition of American realism. His small-format oils offer glimpses of classic Americana: racetracks and baseball fields, toy sailboats skimming over a pond, tourists relaxing on sun-drenched beaches. Typically his are solitary figures, often recalling the loners once celebrated by Edward Hopper, and though there is no Hopperesque gloom here, at moments there emerges a vague sense of the ominous. Van Wieck has painted a progression of works grouped into series with such themes as Working Girls, Players, and Dancing. Though visually diverse, all have underscored the disjuncture between modern people’s physical proximity and emotional connectivity; whatever their gender, race, class, or occupation, no matter how intimate their contact may be, these figures do not fully “get” each other. Flowing against this thematic continuum was the large number of portrait commissions that Van Wieck undertook during the 1990s. As one would expect, he became deeply interested in his sitters, who connected closely with each other in the image, or at least with their viewers. These are figures whom we “get,” at least to a certain extent.
I always want to capture a “moment in time”, it makes my paintings real and timeless. I achieve this by painting the light; whether painting daylight or the lights of the night, light is familiar to us; it’s like music, it evokes a memory or an emotion, and crystallizes the moment. Vermeer was extremely successful at this; even though he was painting a 17th-century scene, the way he paints light allows today’s viewer to connect to that moment thus making the painting both modern and timeless.
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