sábado, 14 de noviembre de 2009

Paul Noble y las ciudades (¿imaginarias?) de Nobson Newton y Alphabet City

Paul Noble (1963) es un artista inglés que ha dedicado años a crear ciudades imaginarias (llamadas Nobson Newtown, de la que existen varias versiones, y Alphabet City), plasmadas en dibujos (entre Hogarth y Escher), libros y "animaciones", que cuentan meticulosamente cómo se funda y crece una ciudad -no tan imaginaria.

Webs y blogs sugeridos:






Artículos sobre las ciudades de pesadilla imaginadas por Paul Noble:

Adrian SEARLE: "Sin City", The Guardian, 14 de septiembre de 2004.

Reproducido en: http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2004/sep/14/1

The shopping mall is like an ancient temple, a vast synagogue or mosque. Neither the ancient world nor even Las Vegas have seen its like before. Its minarets or towers are carved like Trajan's Column, with bas-reliefs winding to their pinnacles. In fact, the entire edifice is covered in carvings, even into the deepest shadows and recesses of this vast emporium. What stories do these carvings tell, and what is that statuary up on the pediment? Christ broken, an inexplicable bunch of carrots in his hand. He's held upright by a human, pointy-headed turd. Above this excremental pieta, Judas, a living stool, contemplates a suicide's noose.
On the walls of the mall are more poo-people having group sex, wild orgies and S&M sessions, going at it with their little arms and legs and the requisite sexual parts. There are things going on I don't even want to think about. But the more you look, the more you want to see, and the more there is to see, the more you keep on looking. Isn't that Hokusai's Wave, about to inundate that turd sheltering under his brolly? I'm drowning, too, not in sewage but in drawing.
Mall, by the British artist Paul Noble, is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It is currently on loan to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, for Noble's exhibition in the upper spaces, which opened on Friday. Noble has spent the past decade drawing: image after image, story after story. It is unusual that an artist should restrict themselves to a single medium and method, even one so ubiquitous as pencil and paper. Noble's singular purpose extends to the elaboration of one all-encompassing subject: the invention and description of a city that exists only in his imagination. If relatively few contemporary artists have concentrated so single-mindedly on drawing, fewer still have invented a world so complete and detailed, a place so thoroughly appalling and bizarre as the nightmarish urban sprawl of Nobson Newtown.
One almost feels that Noble's ideal viewer would be a fly, crawling every inch of his huge drawings, or alighting here and there, savouring it all with multifaceted eyes and an unerring nose for the dung-heap. Even Noble himself never sees his drawings in their entirety until all the sheets of the larger works are finished, lain out and abutted: his studio is too small to lay out the complete drawings as he works on them.
In a way, Noble's creation is founded in quintessentially English humour. The town is full of jokey names, from the Nob Job Club (a job centre with a poached-egg dome), to the Nobspital and the Nobsend cemetery. There is something inescapably schoolboyish about the project, about the oblique projections familiar from the school technical-drawing class; something laddish and libidinous in Noble's delight in the detail, in the exercise book-cover pornographies, the animal experiments and bestiality, the turd cartoons, the blasphemies, the sewers. One also thinks of the kind of people who devote their energies to building a model of the Taj Mahal from sugar-lumps in the garden shed, having already constructed the shed itself from a lifetime's supply of spent matches.
Yet there is much more to his work than lavatory humour, smutty jokes or an eccentric's mania to create an imaginary world. His drawings are enormously time-consuming, both to make and to look at. He has, quite literally, immersed himself in drawing, and in the story he tells himself as he draws. And those stories could be tedious, were it not for Noble's sophistication.
His pictorial world takes a lot of explaining, which the catalogue to the exhibition manages excellently. Most interesting of all are the pages of photographic, illustrative and written material from the artist's archive, which take us to mosques in Mali, beaches in north-east England, an egg shop in Genoa, Warsaw in ruins. He collects images of beautiful things and curious things: brick walls, reproductions of Chinese scroll paintings, 18th-century pornography and hideous descriptions from a seminal 1960s book called Animal Liberation, of pointless and cruel experiments on animals. Somehow, all this gets into his drawings.
If Nobson Newtown and its environs might owe something to Dickens's Coketown, to Viz comics, to Terry Gilliam's Brazil and his graphic work for Monty Python, the wretchedness of the place reminds me of the terminal decay of New York in Paul Auster's City of Last Things; of the authoritarian consumerist society exemplified by the sinister, all-devouring mall in José Saramago's novel The Cave; and of the post-nuclear Kent of Russell Hoban's marvellous novel Riddley Walker, in which language as much as the world itself has been destroyed, reduced to a rubble of broken words and demolished concepts.
Nobson, too, is built on words. Many of Noble's blocky, modernist-looking houses (in fact, they look like bunkers, or the kinds of casts Rachel Whiteread takes of architectural spaces) are derived from Nobfont, a geometric typographic font also invented by the artist, and which is in part inspired by 1930s houses in Whitley Bay, where he grew up. His buildings spell out names, phrases, arcane quotations.
The 3x4m drawing Nobson Central presents acres of ruination that might belong in bombed-out Baghdad or Kabul or an earthquake zone, row upon row of what appear to be modernist slums, concrete dwellings whose walls are breached and pocked, their flat roofs gone. I used to have such fantasies of carpet-bombed destruction, growing up in Welwyn Garden City. The configuration of the rows upon rows of buildings actually spells out the opening lines of TS Eliot's The Waste Land. But why board up the windows of a house whose walls are open? Why put out the neatly tied binbags when everywhere is rubbish strewn? The details are terrific: clods of concrete writhe and dangle like bad sculpture on twisted stanchions, a perky satellite dish points skyward, a trellis hangs on a side wall (perhaps waiting for Eliot's April lilacs), a pipe pumps muck, uselessly, from shell-hole to midden. Whether all this devastation was wrought by friendly bombs, unfriendly builders or enemy mortars we shall never know.
Although there is no small amount of sex, death and horror in Noble's drawings, and probably even more turds than in the whole of Sade, Nobson Newtown has been built over familiar territory. The city is, apart from anything else, a great metaphor. Order and disorder, and Eliot's memory and desire, exist on every level. Noble is at once the architect and town planner, archaeologist, map-maker, social historian, archivist, creator and destroyer. The entire project might be seen as itself a metaphor for the creative process.
Peter Ackroyd was right to give us not a history of London, but a bio-graphy. Cities live inside us, as much as we live in them. If a city has a biography, and a life of its own, it also has memory, a subconscious, guilty secrets. Eye-popping, any-hole-goes sex fills the drawing Huh Huh, while the work at the centre of the same white-painted room is a large, perfect white egg, whose ovoid surface is covered in yet more horrible scenes of animal experiments and torture. Sometimes, one's inescapable fascination borders on the prurient. Not in Nobson, surely, one asks, appalled. But then again, why not? Ultimately, Nobson Newtown's humour is got at no small expense to one's humanity.
In contrast, Noble's vast drawing Ye Olde Ruin - which fills an end wall of the main upper gallery - is very nearly a dream of Arcadia, with parks enclosed in arabesque, ornamental railings, follies and a fake mountain, acres of slender trees, the entire dream-like scene tailing off into a pale, nuanced emptiness, like the reverie of a mind afloat. The atmosphere is a lot like Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights, but the party is definitely winding down. Someone's dumped a busted telly in the foreground, breaking the spell.
One of the pleasurable - perhaps frightening - things about Noble's art is the sense that he is as much groping his way around Nobson Newtown, getting lost and finding himself up a cul de sac or accidentally wandering into unsavoury neighbourhoods as we ourselves are. Who knows what will turn up next? A big mooning bottom, for example, projected at the far end of the main gallery. One at first takes the animated body, half-hidden by a beautiful embroidered screen, for an egg-like head. Step behind the screen and one sees it is, in fact, a pair of buttocks, the puckered arsehole giving birth. Not to shit, but to life. That's how a fly would see it, anyhow".

Richard DORMENT: "A Town Made of Nightmares", The Telegraph, 15 de septiembre de 2004

Reproducido en: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3623954/A-town-made-of-nightmares.html

"Paul Noble's drawings in pencil on paper take months to complete, and are so huge that he himself never sees a completed drawing until the many individual sheets of paper on which he's worked are pinned together on the gallery wall. Intricate, obsessive, piling detail upon detail, they look like the "outsider art" of autistic or schizophrenic people.
Somewhere between a map and an illustration from the children's book Where's Wally, Noble's is an art of accretion, of excess, and of apparently limitless elaboration. It belongs to a strand of visionary and fantasy art in Britain that includes Blake and Richard Dadd, but also Viz comics and the cartoons of Robert Crumb.
Noble draws things so small that the human eye can hardly make them out, and panoramas so sprawling that we can't take them in without moving our head. The result is that we look at a work by him from close to and from a distance, as though from both ends of a telescope.
When you go to the Whitechapel Art Gallery's show of Noble's recent work, watch how other visitors respond in front of the large-scale drawings. Restlessly, they move back and forth, unable to find a comfortable place from which to look.
For years, Noble has been drawing the imaginary town of Nobson Newtown, a kind of model city or garden suburb out of which urban planners have created a place of nightmare. In successive exhibitions, I've seen Noble's depictions of its town hall, schools, factories, jail, hospitals and playing fields, as well as its slums, sewage, cemetery and the last vestiges of the landscape it displaced.
There is no beauty and no quality of life here, only a sort of Gradgrindian utilitarianism that would warm the heart of John Prescott.
In the past, the town felt quintessentially English, as depressing and awful as Milton Keynes or Brent Cross Shopping Centre. People don't appear in Noble's drawings, but the misery of their environment makes the hopelessness of their lives easy to imagine. Seen individually, some of the drawings feel a little twee; it's the cumulative effect of Noble's imaginative vision that is so impressive.
In the new works being shown at the Whitechapel, we realise that Nobson Newtown is not just an English phenomenon, but also a state of mind, the product of a world that wholeheartedly embraces its values.
Nobson Central, for example, looks like a Middle Eastern town after a visit from American marines - every one of the low built houses is missing walls and roofs, walls are cracked and pock-marked, and garbage, litter and useless appliances lie around the dirty streets.
That the values of Nobson Newtown can be found all over the world is explored in The Mall, a fantastical synagogue or mosque dedicated to the god of shopping. It would take a year to look at all the decorative panels that embellish the façade and sides of this strange structure, with minutely detailed scenes of non-stop sex and violent torture carried out by an army of comical turds.
In all these pictures Noble uses an invented typeface he calls Nobfont, a three-dimensional perspectival lettering that is (to me) unreadable but which apparently spells out lines from T S Eliot's The Waste Land and Omar Khayyam.
As you can see, even the smallest detail in every work is loaded with symbolic meaning. Start to look at one of his works, and you feel you could go on looking for hours - but without getting any further into the strange mind of Paul Noble.
But then I don't imagine that anyone fully understands the iconography of his densely referenced pictures, with their allusions to Hieronymus Bosch, Kabbala, and the animal rights philosopher Peter Singer. Even the excellent catalogue by Ingrid Rowland only scratches the surface.
Noble is also showing a video of a naked woman's bare bottom behind a decorated screen, a little flourish that adds nothing to the show".

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