30th October – 18th December 2021
Anna Schwartz Gallery
Big Words (Not Mine) – Transcend the poverty of partial vision (floor version) (2021) is the latest in Rose Nolan’s ongoing ‘Big Words’ series, which seeks to extend the confines of traditional art making to forge new possibilities in creation and engagement. Nolan has a highly versatile approach to media, having made works from cardboard, Hessian, Perspex, and wood. The common property of these diverse materials is the everyday nature, reflecting Nolan’s regard for utilitarian principles and an astute understanding of aesthetic potential. Big Words (Not Mine)… is a semicircular carpet that appears circular, being abutted against a mirrored wall.
Bold in scale and by virtue of the artist’s signature colour palette of red and white, the work engages the surrounding architecture in a commanding occupation of space. Underlying its monumental qualities is a deftly achieved economy of materials and spatial efficiency. Viewers are invited to lie, sit or walk on the rug, encouraging a bodily involvement that is enhanced by the positioning of the mirror: to ‘complete’ the artwork (inevitably also including the spectator, albeit in part). Several wooden stools are placed around the central work, functioning as seats for viewers or as stand-ins for spectators. The configuration transcends the typical front-facing position conventionally adopted when presenting artworks, creating a novel opportunity for immersion and interpretation.
The words woven into the wool are reversed and legible only when seen in the mirror. Reflecting the title of the work, the text seems to have a universal meaning as well as being specific to its own literal context. While the words are indeed ‘big’, they do not impose themselves onto their audience but rather invite viewers to seek, decode and ‘run’ their minds over and around them. In the tradition of the readymade, Nolan regularly collects phrases, read or overheard, which she then re-contextualises and materially transforms to be re-interpreted in their new context. The exhibition title ‘Parlour Games’ alludes to the popular indoor pastime based on creative wordplay, which Nolan has inventively reimagined in physical form.
“Transcend the poverty of partial vision” is an extracted phrase from Rosalind Krauss’ 1977 book Passages in Modern Sculpture, that examines the conceptual space occupied by three-dimensional artworks. The illusionistic element enacted by the mirror in this work plays with the viewer’s comprehension, creating a slippage between physical and visual reality. In this sense, space itself is an active ingredient in Nolan’s work, which the viewer is required to navigate in what becomes a performative process.
Incorporating repetitive geometry and graphic lettering reminiscent of an athletics track, the space is imbued with the sense that it could be a stage or potential site for action. The parallel lines guide viewing, as they might movement, to engage viewers to enact ‘mental’ as opposed to physical exercise. In this way, Big Words (Not Mine)… constructs an arena that both invites and challenges through an innovative union of form and concept.