‘Evans Bay’ is one of many impressions of Wellington Harbour that James Nairn painted. ‘Evans Bay’ was painted ‘En Plein Air’, or outdoors, as was a technique that Nairn specialized in. This was due to the fact that Nairn believed painting outside would help to capture the momentary effects of changing light and weather. This effect can be seen through the ripples of the water and reflection of the surrounding hills.
Light was a primary fascination for Nairn’s impressionistic style. He used a brush technique called ‘Scumbling’ in order to capture a naturalistic interpretation of the light within Evans Bay. This method involves painting a thin layer of oil paint over another layer in order for the under layer to show through. This created an uneven, broken effect that was ideal for capturing the scintillating characteristics of light.
An interest in snapshot-like compositions was also a characteristic of Nairn’s work. Often his paintings looked cropped, as if Nairn was capturing a fleeting moment in time with a camera. This idea meant that Nairn treated figures in the landscape with no more significance than any other object within the frame. People were never a central subject in his work; if they appeared at all it was simply part of the action.
‘Evans Bay’ is a perfect example of this snapshot-like composition. Its framing suggests that the scene continues beyond the boundaries of the painting & the figure within is merely there by chance, as is with reality.
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