Monday, April 03, 2006

Nolan Stewart

There is an element of both Chinese and Japanese landscape painting in Nolan Stewart's artwork. When I venture that it recalls Qi Bashi, he replies by comparing himself to Rembrandt, but it was late at night and we had had some wine.

If I remember correctly, it was Rembrandt's patience that truly became synonymous with his name, or something of the trembling infusion of time into "ordinary" objects. Which for me never fails to recall a certain anxiety as well, one that in Nolan's work may even resonate in something of a distinctively contemporary manner. On the level of cells and auto-immunity, no less.

That is, there often seems to be a deliberate confrontation or staging taking place between the artist and such forces (at once cancerous, internal and inescapable)–namely, what might appear at first glance as an attempt to master them(selves). Though with this last statement I'm not at all sure he would agree.

Citing the playful and serious rebellion of his primary influence, one of whose trademark gestures is a radical re-working/re-casting of the question and politics of time, Nolan is inclined to emphasize the meditative balance between serendipity and (what I would call) Thoreauvian attention to detail in his work, the poetics of chaos, or the gesture of love toward the madness of the (originary) event, you might even say, especially if you had had some wine. But above all his work is aesthetically coherent, provocative and pleasing. In the artist's own words, then:
My work is process based, created by the visual record of physical interaction with a surface. I start by making large, physical, gestural, body sized, spontaneous, explosive mark(s). Then balance these marks with, time consuming, meditative, slow, careful, small and detailed marks. This process evolved form the examination of repetitive mark making. Just small, meditative marks would result in a very calm unbalanced physical record. In order to create a balanced image something large, involving the whole body and not just the hand is necessary. The directness and simplicity of the work allows the speed of the process to be easily read, this invites the viewer to experience the meditative pace of the work. Sometimes the image created looks like microscope photography, stellar clusters.

For a sampling and a link to his webpage please see The blog (not) beyond, where such things accumulate.

One shouldn't complicate things for the pleasure of complicating, but one should also never simplify or pretend to be sure of such simplicity where there is none. If things were simple, word would have gotten around, as you say in English. There you have one of my mottos, one quite appropriate for what I take to be the spirit of the type of 'enlightenment' granted our time. Those who wish to simplify at all costs and who raise a hue and cry about obscurity because they do not recognize the unclarity of their good old Aufklarung are in my eyes dangerous dogmatists and tedious obscurantists. No less dangerous (for instance, in politics) are those who wish to purify at all costs."(Limited Inc., 119)

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