Isabel Nolan

The Barely Perceptible Vibration of Everything


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Not on display

Isabel Nolan born 1974
Object: 2550 × 19000 mm
Presented by Bloomberg and originally commissioned in 2017 for Bloomberg SPACE, 2019


The Barely Perceptible Vibration of Everything 2017 is a very large, landscape-format hand-tufted wool tapestry that is displayed on the wall across approximately twenty metres. It can be hung on one wall or across one or two corners. It was commissioned by the media and data company Bloomberg, London and represents the site in the City of London occupied by their office building and exhibition space. The vibrant, colourful landscape of the tapestry unfolds from dark and muted hues at its two ends which frame very bright passages evoking topographic and archaeological elements, as well as natural elements such as sun light, water, greenery, rocks and sand. The work combines figurative references and abstract shapes rendered in a painterly manner. It 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 artist’s large steel sculpture Blind to the Rays of the Returning Sun 2017 – also commissioned by Bloomberg and now in Tate’s collection (Tate T15369) – directly refers. The tapestry was inspired by geographic survey and archaeological drawings of the Bloomberg site, and created from a set of watercolour paintings that Nolan made beforehand. The patchwork of colours, recalling the modernist textile works of Paris-based artist Sonia Delaunay (1885–1979), illustrates the different layers of time and history which accumulated on this site, weaving together references to lost and current civilisations and their beliefs. Nolan has described this 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. It’s a fairly abstracted landscape from the perspective of an impossible, quasi-cosmic viewpoint. 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,, accessed 6 November 2018.
Darran Anderson, ‘Isabel Nolan: Interview’, Studio International, 19 June 2014,, 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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