Nicholas Coley is a “plein aire,” (or open air) oil painter, which means he creates his paintings outside, directly in front of the location that he depicts within his artworks. He finds this approach gives him a closer sense of unity with his surroundings, which would not be as great if he were working from photographs. Many of his subjects are every-day scenes in Bay Area locations, but his bravura style emphasizes the dramatic shapes and changing light that is characteristic of the the Northern California landscape. “I look for compositions with energy,” he explains, “and try to impress the immediacy and rush of painting.” Although the influence of French Impressionism and Fauvism are most obvious, it is the work of Wolf Kahn, Richard Diebenkorn, and other painters from the Bay Area Figurative Movement of the 1950s and 60s, with which Coley identifies most closely. These influences are apparent in Coley’s experimental use of color and bold brushstrokes to depict realistic settings in an abstract style.
Nicholas Coley was raised in Muir Beach, CA. He studied art at L’ecole des Beaux Arts in Aix-en-Provence and at the Marchutz school in Le Tholonet, France. He holds a BA in painting from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and spent a year painting in a Vietnamese Buddhist Monastery in southwestern France. He has participated in exhibitions at venues including Wall Gallery in Oakland, ArtZone461 in San Francisco, and J Go Gallery in Utah, among others.