The naked and the nude

Out of The Bedroom Into the Lounge.

Out of The Bedroom Into the Lounge.

THE HUMAN FORM: A retrospective exhibition of Gisborne born artist Jan Nigro’s paintings that focus mostly on the nude such as Kiwi Girls Just Want to Have Fun is to be held at Tairawhiti Museum. Picture supplied

The nude fascinated Gisborne-born artist Jan Nigro whose work is to be exhibited at Tairawhiti Museum from the end of this month. Regardless of trends in contemporary art practice Nigro celebrated the human figure.

The nude has always been a no-no to the general public, Nigro once told Ron Browson, Auckland Art Gallery’s senior curator for New Zealand and Pacific Arts. No difference between the naked and the nude exists although the public thinks so, she said.

“Clothes give people a period in time but when you strip them, the body is quite universal . . . I have looked at women and men a lot. I look at male models and female models. Men and women are both people. I find men and women just as important as the other, as painterly models. I want to see from a male and from a female perspective. I look for the feminine shape in the female and the masculine shape in the male.”

“I need to look beyond the skin at the social, sexual, cultural or even psychological complexities although I admit that’s a tough one. Gender overlapping, looking for a different mood in male and female iconography, ambiguity: these are words I like.”

One of Nigro’s more controversial nudes, The Sunbather, painted in 1973, is considered the first sexual nude to be seen in New Zealand, partly because Nigro had the audacity to paint pubic hair. The sunbather is a young woman who lies on a towel, facing the viewer. Her eyes are closed, her legs slightly open. She does not appear aware that she is being watched.

Born in Gisborne, where she spent her first nine years, Nigro enrolled at Elam School of Fine Arts in 1937.

The figure was “drummed into” Nigro by Archie Fisher who believed draughtsmanship and design, that “expressed the emotion of the artist”, were essential to the success of a painter: design. Nigro later rejected Fisher’s stylistic conservatism and pursued figurative painting, drawing and collage. During the 1960s, she lived in Rotorua where she experimented with abstraction, before returning to the human form. She was also a strong colourist. The influence of French modernist Henri Matisse who was known for both his use of colour, simplified forms and fluid draughtsmanship can be seen in many of Nigro’s works.

“There are certain characteristic elements that run through much of Nigro’s work,” notes the Aesthete Gallery Hamilton on its webpage.

“One of these is her intuitive and uninhibited use of colour — from the rich, subtly varied palette used in the Pioneer paintings, to the bright, often violently contrasting colours of more recent works.”

Out of The Bedroom Into the Lounge — Jan Nigro, Tairawhiti Museum, opens at 5.30pm on Friday, November 30.

The nude fascinated Gisborne-born artist Jan Nigro whose work is to be exhibited at Tairawhiti Museum from the end of this month. Regardless of trends in contemporary art practice Nigro celebrated the human figure.

The nude has always been a no-no to the general public, Nigro once told Ron Browson, Auckland Art Gallery’s senior curator for New Zealand and Pacific Arts. No difference between the naked and the nude exists although the public thinks so, she said.

“Clothes give people a period in time but when you strip them, the body is quite universal . . . I have looked at women and men a lot. I look at male models and female models. Men and women are both people. I find men and women just as important as the other, as painterly models. I want to see from a male and from a female perspective. I look for the feminine shape in the female and the masculine shape in the male.”

“I need to look beyond the skin at the social, sexual, cultural or even psychological complexities although I admit that’s a tough one. Gender overlapping, looking for a different mood in male and female iconography, ambiguity: these are words I like.”

One of Nigro’s more controversial nudes, The Sunbather, painted in 1973, is considered the first sexual nude to be seen in New Zealand, partly because Nigro had the audacity to paint pubic hair. The sunbather is a young woman who lies on a towel, facing the viewer. Her eyes are closed, her legs slightly open. She does not appear aware that she is being watched.

Born in Gisborne, where she spent her first nine years, Nigro enrolled at Elam School of Fine Arts in 1937.

The figure was “drummed into” Nigro by Archie Fisher who believed draughtsmanship and design, that “expressed the emotion of the artist”, were essential to the success of a painter: design. Nigro later rejected Fisher’s stylistic conservatism and pursued figurative painting, drawing and collage. During the 1960s, she lived in Rotorua where she experimented with abstraction, before returning to the human form. She was also a strong colourist. The influence of French modernist Henri Matisse who was known for both his use of colour, simplified forms and fluid draughtsmanship can be seen in many of Nigro’s works.

“There are certain characteristic elements that run through much of Nigro’s work,” notes the Aesthete Gallery Hamilton on its webpage.

“One of these is her intuitive and uninhibited use of colour — from the rich, subtly varied palette used in the Pioneer paintings, to the bright, often violently contrasting colours of more recent works.”

Out of The Bedroom Into the Lounge — Jan Nigro, Tairawhiti Museum, opens at 5.30pm on Friday, November 30.

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