Paul Noble

Littlest Leg, 2015


21 × 30 cm

Over £ 10,000

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An expansive landscape of rubble and infinite pebbles is what immediately strikes the viewer when looking at this drawing on paper by Paul Noble. Upon closer inspection however, the rocks become alive through their gnarled and contorted appearance.

“Littlest Leg” (2015) is greatly reminiscent of one of Paul Noble’s earlier series of works, which originally awarded the artist widespread recognition, “Nobson Newtown”. Noble draws inspiration from a variety of sources including Hieronymus Bosch, Japanese sculptures, Faberge eggs, 18th century pornogrpahy, animal rights posters, and, of course, modernism. This piece is also allusive of “Where’s Waldo?” series of puzzle books and cartoons created by English illustrator Martin Handford and the title of the drawing sheds light on to the object worth searching for.

The lighting within the drawing is flat, the shadows are barely cast indicating an overshadowed sun, a wasteland of wilderness. This flat light creates a sense of heavy density, Noble writes of his artistic process: “I use the devices of technical drawing. These devices help shine the sharpest light on the things I depict. I am against hierarchies and perspective. I arrange the objects of my drawings on a spatial plane using cavalier projection. The origins of this projection law lay in military cartography-fore, mid and background are got rid of and everything depicted is equally close and far. The viewer becomes the architect and the drawing, and architectural plan. He or she is no longer earthbound but hovers like an angel over the described scene, taking in the entire design.”

The influence of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s photography on Noble is made clear. The Becher style, which was created through black and white industrial grid like typologies is described by the Becher’s as the most objective gaze. This objectiveness ties into Noble’s use of cavalier projection law as used in military cartography to create equitable and unbiased landscapes and is helpful when dealing with the repetition of motif after motif.

the artist

British artist Paul Noble was born in Northumberland, England in 1963. He attended Sunderland Polytechnic and Humberside College of Higher Education before moving to London in 1987. Noble was a founding member of City Racing, an artist-run gallery space active between 1988 and 1998. In 1996, he created the first work of Nobson Newtown, a vast and ever-expanding series of drawings and sculptures which would occupy the next fifteen years of his practice. Noble exhibited the final installment of the Nobson works in 2011, a show which prompted the artist’s nomination for the Turner Prize in 2012. His works have been exhibited internationally in both group and solo exhibitions, and are currently included in the collections of the Tate, London, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Noble currently lives and works in London.

Fundamental to Paul Noble's practice is the employment of technical drawing devices: cavalier projection, a format which allows for three-dimensional objects to be rendered on a two-dimensional plane, is a consistent feature of his works on paper. Originally used for military cartography, this representation situates the viewer with an aerial perspective. Excluding the compositional divisions of fore, mid and background, this vantage point allows the entirety of a composition to be regarded collectively. In this way, Noble is able to provide the viewer with an omniscient eye over the worlds he creates, while hinting to his own creative omnipotence. In these worlds, the lighting is always flat and the shadows fall unflinchingly, a tonal preference referential of the Northern English coast where the artist spent his youth.

Working in the style of architectural plans and figure drawing, Noble’s works initially appear as objective or technical representations. However, the guise of such objectivity is subverted upon close examination, as Paul Noble's meticulously constructed details are discovered. Having produced works as large as four meters tall by seven meters wide, Noble’s works require extended focus and a deft eye to be appreciated fully. The smaller works in his oeuvre are no exception; Noble’s skills as a draughtsman are apparent from a wide view, but his peculiar humor and sociological interests are only discernible upon close inspection. Lewd cartoons etched into bricks, anthropomorphised scatological forms, and lone human limbs are amongst the many uncanny symbols Noble plants throughout his works. Operating within the parameters of technical representation, Paul Noble brings precise form to his imagined worlds.

Working in the style of architectural plans and figure drawing, Paul Noble’s works initially appear as objective or technical representations. However, the guise of such objectivity is subverted upon close examination, as his meticulously constructed details are discovered.

Paul Noble
on Artuner

Part of the

March 15th, 2018 until
April 24th, 2018
Curated by ARTUNER