Isabel Nolan

Blind to the Rays of the Returning Sun

2017

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Not on display

Artist
Isabel Nolan born 1974
Medium
Painted steel
Dimensions
Object: 3220 × 2760 × 3070 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Bloomberg and originally commissioned in 2017 for Bloomberg SPACE, 2019
Reference
T15369

Summary

Blind to the Rays of the Returning Sun 2017 is a large steel abstract sculpture, composed of angular, mainly triangular forms. Most of its surface is painted off-white, with touches of orange at the three corners resting on the floor, the corner at the top of the work, and another corner sticking out on one side. These orange corners suggest a zoomorphic reading of the geometric sculpture, evoking three legs, a head or a muzzle, and a tail. It was commissioned by the media and data company Bloomberg and is a response to the site in the City of London occupied by their office building and exhibition space. It was originally displayed alongside the large colourful tapestry The Barely Perceptible Vibration of Everything 2017 – also commissioned by Bloomberg and now in Tate’s collection (Tate T15368) – which depicts the lost River Walbrook, which marked the limits of the first Roman settlement of Londinium. It also alludes to the temple built on this same site, in the third century AD, to the god Mithras, represented as the sun, but also throughout mythological iconography as sacrificing a bull, to which the sculpture Blind to the Rays of the Returning Sun directly refers. The works were inspired by geographic survey and archaeological drawings of the Bloomberg site,
illustrating the different layers of time and history which accumulated there, weaving together references to lost and current civilisations and their beliefs. The artist has described these work as based on historians’, geographers’ and archaeologists’

ingenious ways to bring the past, the scale of a place, and its shifting nature through time, into meaning. Amongst their methods is the production of hugely informative diagrams. I used some of their representations of this specific site to compose this tapestry landscape, but I rendered them largely uninformative, made them differently evocative to produce another description of this locality … I wanted to imagine this site, its texture, its history and layered terrain into a vast-ish, seductive continuum of space and time.
(Artist’s text written to accompany the exhibition of the work at Bloomberg SPACE, London in 2017.)

Nolan works across sculpture, painting, drawing, writing, photography and textile works. Her work investigates a range of subjects from cosmological phenomena, religious reliquaries, Greco-Roman sculptures to literary and historical figures, questioning the ways in which the world is experienced and brought into meaning, notably through scientific practices. Art critic Isobel Harbison included Nolan amongst artists ‘including Eva Berendes, Nicholas Byrne and Richard Wright – who are carefully employing the assiduous craftsmanship and geometric pattern-making of pre-modernity, replacing mathematical systems with a more open-ended spirit of investigation, and reinvestigating the importance of making’ (Harbison 2010, accessed 6 November 2018). She went on to describe Nolan as pitching ‘familiar symbols from a range of disciplines against traditional ways of seeing – magnifying the microscopic, animating the serious, alleviating the grandiose – with a consistent and delicate sense of absurdity’ (Harbison 2010, accessed 6 November 2018).

Further reading
Isobel Harbison, ‘Isabel Nolan’, Frieze, 1 March 2010, https://frieze.com/article/isabel-nolan, accessed 6 November 2018.
Darran Anderson, ‘Isabel Nolan: Interview’, Studio International, 19 June 2014, https://www.studiointernational.com/index.php/isabel-nolan-interview, accessed 6 November 2018.
Isabel Nolan, unpublished text written for the launch of the exhibition Another View from Nowhen, Bloomberg SPACE, London, 8 November 2017–3 June 2018.

Elsa Coustou
November 2018

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