Gavin Nolan

Gavin Nolan (born 1977) is a contemporary Welsh artist. Born in Aberdare, he was educated at Loughborough University and The Royal Academy of Arts, London. After graduating from the RA he went on to become one of the founding members of Rockwell Gallery in Hackney, London, which was from 2002-2007 an influential artists’ run space. He has had solo exhibitions in London and Los Angeles and continues to show internationally. His work is housed in several prominent private collections including the David Roberts, and Thomas Rusche collections.


Gavin Nolan’s recent paintings depict versions of historical figures. Combining hyper-realism with materially abstract painting on a small scale, the work reveals the heroic and fragile nature of his subjects and meditates on language, legacy and obsolescence. Focussing on figures found towards the fringes of society, Nolan’s current work examines his relationship with the past.
An interest in the inception of political, cultural and intellectual movements leads to an examination of their subsequent knock-on effects; the echoes of an individuals thoughts and actions that have moulded the world at large. The non-linear appreciation of time afforded to us through the liminal space of painting allows Nolan to reinterpret historical facts, half truths and damned lies, presenting them to the viewer simultaneously. Content is sandwiched together with different forms of language vying for supremacy – the hyper-real masquerades as fact and the abstract plays the role of the unknown or intangible.  Time is meant to bring us crystal clear hindsight, yet here, on the painted surface, truth is always elusive, information is filtered or deliberately skewed.  Engaging with this slippage, Nolan searches out new myths, new traditions and reveals an alternative version of events where history’s winners and losers not clearly defined. The painting as object has its own peculiar integrity, it is its own temporal fact.
The figures inhabiting the works become phantoms, undead, haunting our present, fading in and out of being. By imagining characteristics and simultaneously projecting himself onto his subjects, the paintings in themselves might be considered a mirror, and we the audience find ourselves between two mirrors infinitely reflecting each other: the painter and the painting. This diaristic approach is revealing, but also affirms that while elements of an artist’s life and work are universal, there is also much that is fleeting and fugitive.


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