Nigel Howlett

Faceless subjects speak volumes.

Nigel Howlett was born in 1979 in Croydon, UK, and now lives and works in London.


Howlett’s 2021 exhibition The Face Before You Were Born at Ojiri Gallery, close to his East London studio, represented a solo show debut and documented his transition to painting in oils.

Did you know?

The artist's enigmatic faceless figure first appeared during the Covid-19 pandemic, embodying the social isolation and emotional toll of quarantine life.

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Practice overview

Nigel Howlett’s paintings and drawings are funny-yet-tender reflections on life. The cartoonish protagonist is an androgynous figure in a near-constant state of melodrama. It sits with its head in hands. Sometimes slumped, sometimes praying. Cartoons, Surrealism and Adam Curtis documentaries are few key inspirations. Taking prompt from these, Howlett’s work is intentionally universal. “We always project onto forms and characters we look at. The more simple they are, the easier it is for us to do.” Recent works see the artist move from paper to canvas. Likewise, charcoal and graphite have been replaced with oil paint. Umber now also brings a subdued warmth to his monochromatic palette. Process, however, remains unchanged. Howlett plans, edits and refines until each work is as concise and clear as possible.

Social and political issues often surface. Inside Out (2021) depicts Howlett's main character peering between window shutters. The figure has a tangible sense of distrust for the outside world. First shown in 2021 in Hong Kong, the piece was a response to oppressive security laws in the region. Thus, the work taps into widely-felt concerns regarding government surveillance. Evocative and playful, Howlett’s work is always left open to interpretation. An elegant tribute to humankind's capacity to speak without words.

“We always project onto forms and characters, the more simple they are the easier this becomes.”Nigel Howlett