View All Art Works By Neil Nelson
The art of Neil Nelson is one that resonates entirely with a certain generation, although that’s not to say the appeal of his work doesn’t transcend others both before and after the Marmite and Colmans one. More of which later. In terms of his own personal labelling, Nelson as an artist divides his artistic time between still life and portraiture, and has built an enviable reputation and industry standing in both arenas, constructed on traditional fine art principles and a deep awareness and understanding of his subject matter.
Born and bred in 1977 in Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, where he still lives and works, despite a spell on the continent, at the Studio Escalier in Southern France to be precise, where Nelson chose to study Classical Realism on completion of his Fine Art degree obtained at little closer to home at the Northumberland College of Art and Design previously. At the former establishment Nelson was taken under the creative wings of established artists, Timothy Stotz, N Michelle Tully and recognised master draughtsman and painter, Ted Seth Jacobs, all of whom he trained under and picked the artistic brains of during his time there.
Nelson, whilst having a portfolio which boasts illustrative examples of everything from still life to figurative drawings, quickly forged his reputation based on his compact, somewhat earthy paintings of predominantly solitary fruits, bottles and jars. These are nearly always set amid painted wooden compartments within the canvas, thus creating an organic ambience to his pieces, full of home-grown lustre and a genuinely rustic charm; although never to the point of quint picture postcard visually assembly. Nelson’s formidable ‘compartment’ series as they were soon dubbed proffered an intense sense of light and depth to the muses which were subjected to his creative eye and canvas expressionism. In the artist’s own words; "On a basic level, I aim towards realism in my work. To the best of my ability I try to paint what I see and understand about the subject. Painting, for me, is a journey towards understanding” going on to add; “A quest for knowledge and an on-going struggle to understand nature and to decipher the effects of light on the world around. “
There’s no arguing that Nelson commits his elected materials to his chosen medium with an alarming sense of honesty, dedicated as an artist to exorcise the illustrative truth and nothing but the truth when focussing on the un-adulterated beauty of his subject. Historically relevant sauce, treacle, mustard, savoury spreads and timeless preserves have all fallen under the Nelson artistic spell, one which witnesses an appreciation of accompaniments that generations recognise and take for granted; never quite seen in this romantic, nostalgic illustrative context that breathes new and alternative lives into what, perhaps some would concur as simply the mundane and unchallenging. But not to Nelson.
He sees Heinz, Colmans, Gales, Lea and Perrins, Branston et al as almost iconic brands, brought to us in glorious jar designs and brand livery, which demand exploring and pictorially documenting just as much as a pair on Converse trainers, half an apple or a flower in a bottle. Nelson’s enchanting ‘Kitchen Heroes’ collection is a classic series of originals, which capture this genre and this unseen mood, every bit as much as his other observations more in keeping with a more orthodox still life presentation, while the artist’s portraits are incredibly enigmatic and compositionally frank pieces which although earthy in certain lights and representations, are nevertheless statuesque in their accumulative appeal and measured detailing.
Nelson explains it best when he describes how he attempts to look beyond the initial physical appearance of the primary subject matter, which then allows the painting to take form on a deeper level and therein hopefully provoke an emotional response. Nelson talks of his wish to elicit some sort of reaction or sympathy for an object which appears for all intents and purpose to be striving to communicate with the world around it, and to ultimately transform something humble into something majestic.
Nelson’s body of work thus far has been showcased in solo exhibitions and group in Newcastle, Edinburgh, London and New York, while it features in collections across Europe and in the United States. What’s more, Nelson’s art has been publically exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of the BP Portrait Award, the Scottish National Gallery based in Edinburgh as well as with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters at London’s Mall Galleries.