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Paul Noble is best known for his creation of a fictitious town, Nobson Newtown, an ongoing project which has formed the basis of his work since the mid-1990s. Noble has developed his metropolis in a body of intricate large-scale pencil drawings as well as smaller works such as this etching. The buildings that make up Nobson Newtown are block-like constructions formed from letters that spell out their name or function in a geometric font designed by Noble. In Paul’s Place it is the scaffolding in the immediate foreground of the image that spells out part of the title of the work.
Paul’s Place is as a slightly skewed utopia, a fantasized environment fashioned around a playground-like structure. Dense vegetation on the left hand side of the image gives way to a cleared area populated by anthropomorphic tree stumps, the tops of which are fashioned into sculptural monuments: figurative statues, skulls, owls, squirrels, and misshapen heads with distinctly phallic noses. An enormous sharpened pencil grows from the top of one tree in reference to the creative force behind both the conception and depiction of the town. The Paul of the title is Noble’s alter ego, and the fictional architect of Nobson Newtown. As in all of Nobson Newtown, there is a conspicuous lack of human presence in Paul’s Place, although the tools and ladder indicate that someone has been at work, while the scaffolding suggests that there is more work to be done.
As with his large-scale drawings, the buildings and scaffolding of Paul’s Place are depicted from an oblique aerial perspective. The drawings are in fact orthogonal projections, a simplified device for representing an object as three-dimensional, as opposed to creating the illusion of three dimensions. In Noble’s projections, each perspectival line extends at a forty-five degree angle. Such parallel lines can of course never converge on a single vanishing point. Since in Western perspective a vanishing point is essential in creating the illusion of reality, Noble’s use of a simple orthogonal projection flaunts the fictional nature of the world depicted in his works.
The comic book linear style, obsessive detail and fantastic subject of Paul’s Place are characteristic of Noble’s work. He is conscious of the appeal of figurative art to a broad audience, and has intentionally cultivated his style to be easily accessible to a wider public.
Paul’s Place is produced in an edition of thirty with six artist’s proofs and two printer’s proofs.
The print in Tate’s collection is 29/30.
Paul Noble, exhibition catalogue, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 2003
Laura Hoptman, Drawing Now: Eight Propositions, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2002, pp.68-83
Judith Nesbitt and Jonathon Watkins, eds., Days Like These: Tate Triennial Exhibition of Contemporary British Art 2003, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London, 2003, pp. 116-21