New Zealand 1920 - 2012
Jan Nigro is best known for her figurative paintings, drawings and collages. Her name appears in scholarship and commentary of both Australian and New Zealand art.
There are certain characteristic elements that run through much of Nigro’s work. 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.
Another characteristic found in many of Nigro’s images is a fragmentation of figures and objects. She often worked in collage, which by its very nature lends itself to a certain disjunction of the various components that comprise to form the finished picture. In her paintings and drawings quite separate images are often isolated and/or juxtaposed, resulting in effective dislocations of scale and spatial relationships. Images often look as though they have been cut out and pasted down – shadowless, sharply outlined, flattened against the background. Figures appear with heads or limbs missing; snippets of landscape are arranged like tourist snapshots on an album page.
Nigro studied at Elam from 1936 – 1938, under the aegis of Archibald Fisher. Fisher’s teaching emphasized the study of the human figure, and though Nigro would later reject his stylistic conservatism, the human figure remained at the core of her work.