In seeking to make feeling the basis of a new contemporary narrative art, Nigel van Wieck has developed a highly suggestive mode of image-making, one of patently seductive appeal. Working in a forthright, descriptive realist vein, the artist presents discreet glimpses of the private side of human relationships in this group of recent pastels. A keen observer of life, he bases the compositions partly on his own experiences. Yet van Wieck uses models, so his compositions also have a somewhat staged quality. Most of his work focuses on the themes of sex and romance.
American Landscape, 1989, has both a cool veneer and a heavy smouldering air of exception about it. It is a night scene or a young man and woman alone on a platform waiting for a train, which is visible some distance away. Placed in the foreground, the couple — he, leaning against a pole, nonchalant in his dark glasses, and she, bending over to adjust her stockings, legs bared, black garters showing — piques curiosity. The medium of pastel serves as an ideal vehicle for communicating the intimate qualities of the artists vision. Van Wieck’s use of deep blues and blacks, as well as smooth curves and regular rhythms, give the work an intense sensuality.
In Two Manhattans, 1989, the focus is on two fashionably dressed young women seated behind a small table, presumably at a nightclub. Their overall appearance hints at the kind of sexually charged ennui that can accompany the nightlife scene. Again, interest in these figures is aroused not only by their pose, gesture, and accoutrements, but by formal considerations, such as the energetic application of pastel and the flooding of surfaces with a moody light.
In Late Night Call, 1989, two young women are seen through a window, nude; one is in bed looking at herself in a mirror and the other is standing as she talks on the telephone. In this and the other compositions, Van Wieck is hardly one to shy away from the sexual implications of nude figures, especially the particular charge that those in domestic urban settings carry. Like Edward Hopper, Van Wieck uses nudity as an expressive element, as a way of confronting viewers with the frank sensuality of life.