Artist profiles: Paul Noble

My tutor suggested I look at Paul Noble (among others), specifically looking at how he uses technique in relation to subject matter. In this short Guardian interview from the series ‘Guide to Drawing’ he talks about using technical drawing with no perspective and  rarely less than a sharp 4H pencil to “shine the sharpest light on the things I depict”. I can see what he means with the cartographic sense you get from his drawings. Weirdly for a style that is so ‘black and white’ there is nothing straightforward about the surreal worlds he creates.

There is so much detail in Nobson Newton and perhaps that’s the point – that we can’t see what is going on in the world with a glance, there’s a huge amount going on, nothing is what it seems and we need to look in detail and think about what it all means. Also ironic as my art tutor at work commented recently that the amount of time people spend looking at single pieces in galleries is ever reducing. Criminal really, when you think about the hours that go in the works. The precision Paul Noble uses is incredible. There’s also quite a vintage tone to his work which I like given he’s commenting often on the new.

On the Tate website he says ‘My drawings begin with their title….What was writing on a page becomes a building or place’. At the beginning of the course I was prone to writing down concepts in my sketchbook to explore and develop ideas before I was ready to think about representing them visually. It’s heartening to hear someone else work in a similar fashion.

By coincidence I got a book on Hieronymous Bosch from the library recently and I can see a connect between the styles. I was amazed to read Paul Noble has been working on this drawing project for 16 years. Could I ever love an idea so much to work on it for so long.

The monumental scale obviously works for what he is trying to say. He knows what he wants to say though. I am starting to be drawn to what I want to explore and say as I am very interested in people’s inner emotional lives and how they are hidden or not, on the psychological pressures of modern life, on the capitalist obsession with extroversion. What medium is the best for this? What technique is best for this? I don’t yet know.


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