January 07, 2005

Nobson Central

British artist Paul Noble has received widespread international recognition for his monumental eight-year project—the meticulous depiction of a fictional city called Nobson Newtown. Noble is a master draughtsman, whose wall-sized drawings offer aerial perspectives over a fantastical cityscape that echoes the visionary ethos of projects such as the Garden City Movement—source here.
Thumbnail view of the front cover of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
…Nobson Newtown and its environs might owe something to Dickens’s Coketown, to Viz comics, to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and his graphic work for Monty Python […] Nobson, too, is built on words. Many of Noble’s blocky, modernist-looking houses […] are derived from Nobfont, a geometric typographic font also invented by the artist. […]The 3x4m drawing Nobson Central presents acres of ruination that might belong in bombed-out Baghdad or Kabul or an earthquake zone, row upon row of what appear to be modernist slums, concrete dwellings whose walls are breached and pocked, their flat roofs gone.
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
[…] The configuration of the rows upon rows of buildings actually spells out the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. But why board up the windows of a house whose walls are open? Why put out the neatly tied binbags when everywhere is rubbish strewn? The details are terrific: clods of concrete writhe and dangle like bad sculpture on twisted stanchions, a perky satellite dish points skyward, a trellis hangs on a side wall (perhaps waiting for Eliot’s April lilacs), a pipe pumps muck, uselessly, from shell-hole to midden. Whether all this devastation was wrought by friendly bombs, unfriendly builders or enemy mortars we shall never know—source here.
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Nobson is a new town with old customs and beliefs, complete with chemical works, quarry, slums and a palace by the sea. There is also a hospital (Nobspital) and a building called Trev—source here.
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
Part of a detail of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'
The origins of this ‘exercise in self-portraiture via town planning’ lie in the painstaking design of a special font based on the forms of classic modernist architecture. Variously described as ‘3-D Scrabble tiles’ or ‘Lego blocks’, Noble’s pictograms name the buildings that they depict. From the hospital (Nobspital) to the cemetery (Nobsend) via the town centre (Nobson Central) or the Mall, citations from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, Gerard Winstanley’s letters to Oliver Cromwell or T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland are camouflaged within the fields, the trees or the brickwork. Noble’s project embodies a complex infrastructure of civil planning, social policies and historical perspectives—source here.
Thumbnail view of the back cover of Paul Noble's 'Nobson Central.'

I owe my discovery of Noble’s work to a recent entry at Cipango. The images above I took from a book entitled Nobson Central, whose 200 pages are entirely given over to close-up details of this single elaborate drawing. The first and last of the present images are scans of the front and back covers of the book, while the remaining images are a selection of sections of details from its pages. These images are Copyright © 2000 Paul Noble, and have been reproduced without permission, only for as long as no-one objects to their presence here.

Posted by misteraitch at January 7, 2005 11:18 AM | TrackBack

Great entry! And Paul Noble has a wonderful word. About her cities, I remember the Italo Calvino's book "Invisible Cities" (don't if it's right, just know the Portuguese name).

Posted by: Bibi on January 7, 2005 05:37 PM

Coincidence -- I just ran across his work for the first time at a group show of contemporary British artists at the MARCO in Monterrey, Mexico.

It was intriguing, and reminded me of the fantastic landscapes of Bosch, but with its palette limited to a washed-out grey and the lack of any visible people or human activity, I found it a bit remote. It didn't pull me in.

One of the works in the collection was an animated loop, with waves on a beach, running sewers and puffs of smoke. It makes me think that artists like Noble might create interesting interactive landscapes if given a team of software designers to direct.

I need to blog about the MARCO. I found it, too, somewhat underwhelming.

Posted by: Prentiss Riddle on January 17, 2005 05:36 PM

Of course, the coincidence between "Marco" and Invisible Cities is that Invisible Cities, is about Marco Polo describing to Kublai Khan the cities of his vast empire.

Posted by: Ezra Ball on January 24, 2005 12:03 AM

soooo cooooooooooo!

Posted by: dave on July 28, 2005 05:05 PM

Excellent blog, great sets of images - hope you don't mind but I borrowed the main picture for a post I did on intelligent design, so if you mind please let me know!

Posted by: Tim Jones on October 10, 2005 12:15 AM

theres another really great book on an imaginary city of the future that this made me think of called "Dhalgren" by Samuel R. Delaney

Posted by: M on December 14, 2005 10:28 PM
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