CHARLIE SMITH london is delighted to present Gavin Nolan with his first London one person show since 2006.
Nolan has become internationally known for his brutal self portraits and portraits of those around him. More recently, however, the artist has begun to depict historical figures of consequence, leading on from his abject painting 'Portrait as the Suicide of Robert Benjamin Haydon Attempt no. 3', where a self portrait is superimposed onto the death mask of Benjamin Haydon, complete with gunshot wound and open slits to the throat.
For 'A King's Gambit Accepted' the artist has created a collection that continues to draw on historical figures, and in particular those who have committed suicide or chosen a definitive path of action that drives them towards an inevitable death; for example Adolf Hitler, Jesus Christ, Walter Benjamin and Ernest Hemingway. Nolan seeks to render biographical aspects of the subject in the painted surface, whilst aligning knowledge of their particular method of demise to art historical references. And by investigating notions of image and adornment in relation to interiority, the artist explores aspects of the subjects’ private and public lives. A revelatory sense of psychological turmoil, paranoia and violence seeps out, with horror set against beauty and unease underpinning precocity.
Corresponding with these notions are a consideration of power and authority and their projection upon others, where a public surfacing of one person’s private will can lead to populations adhering to cults, religions and schools of thought. We are encouraged to question the correlation between fame, notoriety, death and even mental illness; the ensuing relationships between them, and the consequent impact on society and the individual. Ultimately Nolan serves to emphasize how complex and interconnected are personal and public histories, interior and external worlds, and how the nature of a death can come to define a subject’s life.