Guy Noble


GUY NOBLE – MOON Paintings and work on Paper

Private viewThursday 7th March 5pm to 8pm exhibition March 7th to 24th St.Stephen’s Cultural Centre Foundation Viale Aventino, 17 (ingresso su Via Aventina) 00153 Roma,The St. Stephen’s Cultural Foundation Centre is pleased to announce the exhibition Moon: New Paintings and work on paper by Guy Noble.

Born in Margate, Kent, England, Noble has had several one-man exhibitions in England, Germany and Italy. The recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships, he lives and works in London, where he also teaches at Central St.Martin’s. His work is included prominent public and private collections.

The group of paintings and works on paper in the present exhibition resulted from a fundamental shift in the Noble’s approach to his subject. Deeply affected by the suicide of his friend, the artist Nicholas Volley, in 2006, Noble embraced a more oblique means of representation. Rather than proceed exclusively from direct looking, or a straightforward attempt to represent visual fact, in his recent work, Noble is interested in the emotional afterlife and distortions of a particular image recalled and meditated over after the event.

He found himself drawn to the moon as a motif for its rich layers of subjective meaning and its profound impact on collective consciousness. While Noble’s moons have dense articulated surfaces, which suggest a combination of astronomical fact and atmospheric mystery, he is less interested in scientific accuracy than he is in using the glowing celestial orb as a kind of galactic drive-in movie theater.

Painting from a mixture of photographs and small preliminary drawings, Noble also allowed images imprinted in his memory, as well as those triggered by the painting as it evolved, to work their way into the texture of the painted surface as he worked. Like the changing appearance of the moon itself seen through binoculars, the naked eye, or in the snapshots of a remembered dream, the images Noble painted on his first moon picture, Large Moon (2007-2009) materialised and then disappeared. Steered by his own imagination, he painted the heads of Greek or Roman gods and rulers, such as Alexander the Great, or more ordinary objects like lace, keys or a trumpet, and then painted them out. They continue to hover however in the texture of the moon’s surface, which acts as a screen for the painter’s constantly shifting associative memory.

As writer Roberto Baleno points out in an interview with the artist published in the catalogue to the exhibition: “The painting is not about the sensation of being in front of the moon, but the recollection of the sensations. Then in recollection a series of associated images are provoked into existence. It’s as if the process of recollection acts as a very special kind of catalyst or magnet to more images.”

The artist cites Francis Picabia and Francis Bacon among the painters he admires, chiefly for their ambiguous representation of pictorial space. In the case of Picabia, he is fascinated by the way the painter’s Transparencies from the mid-twenties constructed a series of images on various superimposed layers, connected only by a loose and fluid line. In Bacon, he appreciates the artist’s representation of a “kind of space that only exists in our heads.”

As his series progressed, Noble began to incorporate figures painted in a style that mimics those in nineteenth-century woodcut prints. The artist was drawn to them for their graphic simplicity and “direct honesty,” but also for the way their schematic linear framework creates a sense of transparency. In Hopes & Dreams, for example, the moon provides a luminous backdrop for a male figure rendered in the abbreviated contours of a printed illustration.

The result recalls the tradition of shadow plays, simplified forms projected in silhouette against a wall of light. In other paintings, these graphic elements are combined with motifs borrowed from photographs or retrieved from memory

At the same time, Noble began to animate the painted surface of his canvases by applying glitter, diamond dust, and plastic gems in various colours. Thus, while some pictures embrace the transparent flatness of newsprint illustrations, others use mixed media to conjure up complex impressions of space and atmosphere. Noble applied diamond dust in Red Car – Moon, for example to convey the shimmering, limitless expanse of the universe, whereas he applied faceted gems in the area of light cast by the street lamp in the same painting. He wanted to capture “the way the rain is highlighted by the street lamp as it falls, making it look like [they were] spewing out diamonds into the night.”

Combining images, such as that of the moon, with universal appeal, and motifs with more personal associations, Noble’s paintings construct a conduit between objective and subjective experience, between collective and individual memory. He tries to create for his viewer “the aesthetic experience [that] delivers something that intensifies our sense of being.”