Here is an artist that meets the world embracing its complexity. In Curling up with reality (LaunchPad/Kerlin, 2020), we engage with Isabel Nolan’s practice over ten years, as it flows and unfolds, consistently surprising.
Neither fearful to express beauty, nor afraid to reveal vulnerability, Nolan’s art gives form to a tantalising spectrum of ideas and sources inspiring to her. Working across sculpture, painting, textile, photography and writing, this book is testimony to her immense artistic dexterity.
Beautifully produced with designer Tony Waddingham and editor Gerrie van Noord, we view Isabel Nolan’s art through exhibition and individual works created from 2011 to the present. Each chapter opens with one of her writings, setting the agenda for the artworks presented. This format delivers a rich and rewarding experience of spending time with Nolan’s art. For Nolan is a superb writer (as she is artist). Intertwining personal stories and intimate reflections with an arresting array of subjects – resonate and oblique - her writing is clear-eyed, subversive, resilient and tender.
In praise of animals, creatures and weird things of the earth; the sun, the cosmos and supernova also feature large. She writes scintillatingly on art and its place in this world. In thrall of art’s meaninglessness, she reflects on how it ‘impinges on the real world…producing its own reality’. Falling in love with her subjects - creatives and thinkers, flawed & difficult - philosopher (Simone Weil), artist (Paul Thek), TV icon (Tony Soprano, ‘a very sexy man’), poet (John Donne – his knees). States of disorientation, melancholia, being out of kilter, spark for her moments of revelation, access to a real. Nolan’s writing embeds another layer to her artmaking.
Curling up with reality is a handsome and generous book, worthy of time. It gives a compelling and moving insight to a practice, both sensuous and intellectual, fired by feelings of what it means to be in this world.
Review by Clíodhna Shaffrey, Director