Although Nigel Van Wieck is English by birth, in the years since he has considered himself a New Yorker he has somehow managed to pierce the veil of the American dream. With the acuity only an outsider’s eye possesses, Van Wieck, in his series of oil pastel drawings, manages to convey the dissatisfaction and decadence of life in the United States at the century’s end.
With his scenes of bedrooms, bars and nightspots, Van Wieck assumes the throne vacated by Edward Hopper but updates his material. Van Wieck’s nocturnal scenes continue in the tradition of Hopper’s Nighthawks, and the train tracks that slice across American Landscape are indebted to Hopper, but the characters in that scene have a Rebel With a Cause feeling. With his sunglasses and slouch, the male figure epitomizes a stereotype circulated by the media.
The pastels do have a cinematic quality. Van Wieck uses a virtual repertory company of friends as models, repeatedly staging enigmatic tableaux which, when hung together suggest a storyline. The frank eroticism of his content recalls Eric Fischl, but Van Wieck’s technicolor palette and posed figures are at odds with Fischl’s more ‘documentary’ approach, giving Van Wieck’s work on paper a larger-than-life quality.