‘Porirua Harbour’ perfectly captures Nairn’s fascination with the sea following his arrival in New Zealand. Nairn used watercolour sketches, such as ‘Porirua Harbour’, to create a naturalistic depiction of seascapes. The pale blue colour, combined with the flat washes and horizontal brush strokes all beautifully work together to create a calm piece of imagery.
‘Porirua Harbour’ is a unique insight into Nairn’s early experimentations with light. This particular piece of his work depicts a simplistic approach to capturing the light, where the merging effect of the watercolour paints is all that he used. As he progressed, Nairn started to use more advanced techniques, so this is a special look into the evolution of his art.
During Nairn’s era, seascapes were a popular subject within the Scottish impressionist community. It is not surprising, therefore, with his background, to find that Nairn’s earliest work within New Zealand were studies of the sea. The Harbour of Porirua would’ve provided a perfect subject for Nairn. The colours and surroundings of New Zealand waters must’ve been a unique and interesting new challenge for him.
The fact that the sea makes up a large majority of the frame, seemingly swallowing the figure within, was a common theme within Nairn’s work. Since Nairn’s interest lied mainly in Natural elements, people and man-made objects was rarely the main subject. Instead, Nairn’s approach was a snap-shot style of composition, where these kind of subjects would only appear if they happened to be caught in the action.
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