Sunday 20 November 2011

Welcome to Nobson

Welcome to Nobson (detail), 2008-10

Life is bleak in Nobson Newtown, Paul Noble’s imaginary city. A sprawling urban landscape described in highly detailed pencil drawings, it is a space filled with crumbling monuments, turd-shaped inhabitants, and plenty of visual gags.

Family is Infinity (or Hard Labour), 2010

This Way, 2011

Noble has been working on Nobson for 15 years now, and according to the press bumpf that accompanies his current show at the Gagosian Gallery in London, the project is almost at a close. It all sprang out of a font designed by Noble. Nobfont is a blocky, three-dimensional typeface formed from buildings within the drawings and is often almost illegible. It still appears here, most prominently in the series of works at the gallery’s entrance spelling out the show’s title.

Cathedral, 2011

Installation view at Gagosian

There is little activity in Nobson Newtown (if you ignore the plentiful turd-on-turd sex taking place), and the impression is of a city in decline. Its religious monuments are in disrepair, there are rubbish bags strewn about, but there are also sturdy walls built everywhere: whether these are to protect the inhabitants or restrain them, it is unclear.

Heaven, 2009

Hell, 2009

It is hard to know how seriously to take Noble’s work. The intricate details and obvious industry contained within the drawings demand you look carefully, and yet the works are littered with jokes. Much of the humour is black though, and spells an unhappy future for Nobson: aside from the endless turds (there are giant, polished marble turd sculptures here too), one work features two children’s slides positioned facing each other, promising injury, while Heaven (2009) is simply a walled-in rectanglar space, containing nothing. Beneath the quips, Noble’s vision is sad one, seemingly empty of hope.

Welcome to Nobson is on show at Gagosian in London until December 17, more info is at

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