Nolan’s recent paintings depict versions of historical figures. Combining hyper-realism with abstraction and mark making, his mostly intimate oil paintings reveal the heroic and fragile nature of the subjects and meditate on creativity, language, legacy and obsolescence. Focusing on iconic 20th century figures of note, Nolan’s current work examines his own relationship with the past. His interest in the inception of political, cultural and intellectual movements leads to an examination of their subsequent effects; and the echoes of an individual’s thoughts and actions that have moulded the modern period.
Pictorial content and abstraction vie for supremacy in these paintings where the hyper-real masquerades as fact and the abstract plays the role of the unknown or intangible. Displaying an exceptional facility for handling both tendencies, Nolan asserts via painterly language that historical truth is elusive and information is filtered. Engaging with this slippage, Nolan seeks to remove the depiction of a subject from the reality of the original. The painting as object becomes its own peculiar, temporal fact.
By imagining characteristics and simultaneously projecting himself onto his subjects, Nolan suggests the paintings serve as meditations on the self as well as those depicted. In combination with a restricted palette that hints at nostalgic recollection, and by referencing his own early work, the figures inhabiting this collection might be phantasmal or undead - haunting our present as they fade in and out of time and being.
Gavin Nolan is a contemporary Welsh artist. Born in Aberdare, he was educated at Loughborough University and Royal Academy Schools, London. After graduating from the RA he went on to become one of the founding members of Rockwell Gallery in Hackney, London, which was from 2002-2007 an influential artists’ run space. He has had solo exhibitions in London and Los Angeles and continues to show internationally. His work is housed in prominent private collections globally.
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