From his remote studio near the coast of Northumberland, Neil Nelson creates work which encompasses still life, landscape, figure and portraiture. Working predominantly in oils and charcoal, Neil produces pieces which combine an often direct, expressive painting approach with a subtle understanding of the effects of light.
Born in 1977 in Berwick upon Tweed, Neil studied fine art at Northumberland College of Art and Design and later Classical Realism at Studio Escalier in Southern France.
Neil’s distinctive and insightful approach to his subject matter has led him to forge a strong reputation as an oil painter - particularly within the still life genre and his small, earthy representations of solitary objects have become increasingly collectible over recent years.
Striking in their simplicity, these intimate studies are painted with an honesty and consideration which raises them above the often humble status of the objects they portray. Using a relatively muted palette, Neil’s organic compositions explore a subdued aspect of northern light which exists between two extremes.
“Between the light and the darkness is an area of twilight - not shadow or halftone, but a darker light. It is a falling away of the light into a more subtle state. This is where I want my paintings to exist"
"For me, painting is a journey towards understanding - a quest for knowledge and an ongoing struggle to understand nature and to decipher the effects of light on the world around. I try to paint as honestly as I can and bring out some element of truth and beauty of the subject. My aim is to elicit some kind of emotional response or sympathy for an object which appears to be striving to communicate. I am trying to show something which I feel is mysterious or hidden”
This approach is also evident in his portrait and figure pieces, the uncluttered and direct compositions conveying a strong sense of individual presence and an often intense feeling of illumination and depth. Neil's portraits have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London as part of the BP Portrait Award, the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh - where in 2008 he also gave a talk about his work, and London's Mall Galleries with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
Most recently Neil has focused on the study of the natural world - producing large, brooding landscape and seascape paintings. Flitting between realism and abstraction, they offer a glimpse of a powerful and timeless landscape. Vast panoramic expanses, dark chasms, distant pools of light, icy wastelands, raging seas and brewing storms - Neil depicts landscapes forged by time and the elemental forces of nature.
These paintings display a raw and instinctive approach. Formed by gouging, scraping, slicing, erasing and rebuilding, they are a vehicle through which Neil explores not only the physical characteristics of the landscape but the abundant and tactile properties of oil paint. The process of their creation echoes the constructive and erosive energies which shape the surface of the earth.
“These paintings aren’t intended as literal recordings of places - they are impressions slowly formed from combined memories and experiences of many different environments at many different points in time. They are my experiences of nature in an untamed state and are a record of “spirit of place” rather than an actual depiction of it. My aim is to portray a feeling of this vast and powerful space, to capture a sense of great distance and light. I want to bring the viewer INTO the landscape - to feel as though they’re encompassed by it and experiencing it directly rather than just observing at a distance”
Neil's work has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery and London's Mall Galleries. He has also had solo and group exhibitions in Newcastle, Edinburgh, London, New York, and Washington DC and his work is featured in collections in the UK, Europe and the U.S.