Painted in 1983, Nostalgic Figures dates from the height of Chia's participation in the Transavanguardia movement. This movement, spearheaded by the Italian academic Achille Bonito Oliva, was a reaction to the increasingly sterile world of conceptual art. Alongside painters such as Enzo Cucchi, Mimmo Paladino and Francesco Clemente, Chia turned his attentions to the creation of sensual, painterly and figurative pictures.
In Nostalgic Figures, Chia has deliberately invoked a strange timelessness. There is no clue as to the era of the scene, two men in a landscape. These burly characters, who have come to life through the application of lush and lively oils, appear on an monumental scale. They are eternal characters, and appear here as though transposed from some epic narrative. That they are disembodied in this way, equally plausible as figures in a modern landscape as in an ancient one, taps into Chia's concerns with the mystical and mythological dimensions of life and existence, dimensions with which the modern world is out of touch. It is nostalgia for this that bleeds into the painting, and into the title. Chia is invoking the spirit of a hidden life force, a hidden monumentality of existence itself. This is the role of art, as the father of civilisation, as a window to revelation: 'One thing is certain, art can probably do without the beautiful, but not without the sublime' (Sandro Chia, quoted in U. Weisner, Passione per l'arte: Sandro Chia, Bielefeld, 1986, p. 26). In his paintings, Chia tries to remedy the elusiveness of the sublime not only in modern painting, but also in modern life.