CHARLIE SMITH london is delighted to host Gavin Nolan’s second one person exhibition at the gallery.
Nolan’s recent collection represents an enquiry into the life, mind, thoughts and feelings of the practising artist. Taking a nihilistic approach to the notion of portraiture, Nolan undoes many of the modes that have previously underpinned his work, and embraces the abstract in order to unveil his subjects.
By imagining characteristics and simultaneously projecting himself onto his subjects, each painting becomes a representation of an art world type, and most predominantly the artist. The paintings in themselves might be considered a mirror, and we the audience find ourselves between two mirrors infinitely reflecting each other: the painter and the painting. This diaristic approach is revealing then, but also affirms that while elements of an artist’s life and work are universal, there is also much that is fleeting and fugitive.
This sense of self-reflection is magnified by the appearance of paintings within paintings. Means of Production features a version of itself at an earlier stage of completion. And the reverse side of a large scale canvas in The Crash recalls Velazquez’s Las Meninas, where the Spanish master famously portrays himself looking directly out from the picture plane towards the spectator, whilst standing before a large canvas. In the distance a mirror reflects King Philip IV of Spain and his wife the Queen. The spectator is, therefore, caught between the artist’s gaze and an imagined subject, whilst the reflection causes a logical conundrum. Nolan, in turn, substitutes himself for that subject, whilst reminding us that the artist was originally in the position of the spectator. Thus, artist, audience and subject become inexorably intertwined.
Nolan employs research into technological viewing devices in order to reveal his subjects. The Crash depicts a smoking, drinking artist hero whose form is defined by the language of thermal imaging. In opposition to traditional figure painting shadows are represented by hot colours and surface areas by cool. Recalling earlier work there is an indication of energy emanating from the subject, which is a reminder of our need of life force in order to create, and of the power of the individual. This unmasking of the interior world is continued throughout the collection, where faces are peeled back to reveal skull like visages that appear to be haunted by the mixed empirical associations of making and showing work: absorption, paranoia, egotism and anxiety.