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Portraits and Studies

The human figure has always held primary importance for Nel, both as a means of expressing autobiographical meaning, as well as a vehicle for commenting on the universal human condition.

Very few, if any, of Nel's figurative studies can be considered devoid of conceptual intent or autobiographical commentary and should, accordingly, never be considered as fully representational of any particular sitter. In contrast, Nel often purposefully highlights or even exaggerates distinctive aspects of the model's appearance, such as a sunburned complexion, frown lines or unkempt hair, as signifiers that belie psychological trauma, physical deterioration or social malaise.

"I typically show models in isolation, rendering them solitary and alienated bearers of the universal human condition. Where figures are shown in the multiple, they gaze in different directions - isolated even when in the company of others."

The majority of models used in Nel's figurative work have been drawn from her intimate circle of relations, whether her children, spouse, friends, photographs of childhood relatives or domestic aides. In rare instances, and predominantly in earlier work, Nel has based work on photographs taken of old age home residents, or figures from newspaper clippings that lent themselves to painterly abstraction.

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