Leading British artist Paul Noble presents the culmination of 15-year project at Gagosian gallery
Paul Noble’s exhibition begins In the Beginning, with the Word, in a series of panels re-envisioning the opening passages of the book of Genesis. But Noble depicts not the creation of our world; rather, a faecal-phallic deity breathes life into a dystopian parallel universe, separating particles of light from the darkness with a sieve, drawing back clouds like curtains to reveal the sun, and tagging Day and Night with angular speech bubbles. Welcome to the world of Paul Noble; Welcome to Nobson Newtown.
The fruition of a 15-year project, Nobson Newtown is the brainchild of Paul Noble, and is here painstakingly described in a set of cyclically-referential graphite landscapes, and marble sculpture centrepieces. It is a disconcerting world, in which classical topography is fused with cartoonish iconography, and all is a-topsy-turvy – where a walled compound balustraded by shards of broken glass can be labelled ‘Heaven’, and a parallel area encased in ornate ironmongery labelled ‘Hell’.
The intricate and Escherian depictions of Nobson Newtown’s open urban landscapes have been made via cavalier projection. It is a technique characterised by the lofty viewpoint that is becoming of old-world monumental public spaces and elaborate architecture. But these are landscapes tarnished by tocsin detail – the eerily desolate grounds littered by bulging bin bags, the delicate sculptures grounded by ball and chain, and surreptitious emblems of phallus and excrement emblazoned throughout.
This imaginative leap into these images is aided by Noble’s marble centrepieces, that stand as tangible realisations of Nobson Newtown’s grand gateposts, in equal measure reminiscent of Bryaxis the Greek and Mr Hanky the Christmas Poo. As sentries to an exhibition already protected by a heavy geometric mobile-curtain hanging across the entrance, they augment the already immersive quality of Noble’s Gagosian show – the viewer compelled to crane and scour this parallel universe as if the works were pages from a Where’s Wally comic book.
In this, Noble 15-year project is a success. Granted, the show has its weaker moments, the 2010 work ‘Ah’, for example, failing to elevate the appropriated imagery beyond mere toilet humour. But otherwise, Noble has made an ambitious claim to the title of ‘The Hieronomous Bosch for Postmodern Age’; for, in all its alienness there can be no doubt that Nobson Newton – like ‘The Garden of Eartly Delights’ before it – reflects our own strange world. Words: Thomas Keane © 2011 ArtLyst