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Seven Last Words

A review of Nigel Brown's recent exhibition

PaperGraphica, Christchurch
27 April – 23 May 2009


Eight framed lithographs by renowned New Zealand artist Nigel Brown feature. Images of the composer Haydn and musicians combine with scenes of Christ’s crucifixion. The titles and narrative arise from the use of the seven last words of Christ; from ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ To ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ These sit along side paintings in Brown’s immediately recognisable stylised symbolism.

The exhibition was commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand along with poems by Dinah Hawken. In memory of the 200th year anniversary of Haydn’s death and the performance of “The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross, Opus 51” by the New Zealand string quartet. The poems and images were commissioned to bring a cohesive New Zealand reference to the collaborative trinity.

Brown’s lithographs – narrative depiction of the crucifixion, also incorporate solemn musician’s faces; while the light beyond the cross denotes the promise of salvation. The works reflect the tension between despair, loss, sacrifice and lack of understanding, and the gift of redemption, acceptance and hope through the crucifixion. Showing a strong reference to McCahon in the co-existing prevalence of doubt and faith, the lithographs are hand coloured using gold and pastel tones giving an antique like finish.

In his painting 'Three Lamps Brown' continues to pay homage to McCahon. Lamps, vase, and subtle palette combine with text ‘I Am’ boldly functioning as clear Christian symbols.

Hayden’s own words reflect his impression of his composition “ &new musical pictures one presented again and again, illustrating not only the drama of Passion but also the miracle of salvation, which grows out of the sacrifice of the cross.” (quoted from Seven Last Words – Programme 2009, page 4)


Reviewed and written by Janet Joyce


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