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Work of the Week | 21 February 2022

CAG.3186 Isabel Nolan, Electrons don’t have scars, 2020, water-based oils on canvas, 60 x 50 cm. Presented, RTÉ, 2021 (Commissioned as part of RTÉ Illuminations, 2020). © the artist.


Electrons don’t have scars (2020) is a colourful painting by Isabel Nolan in which hands appear to reach up towards a sun-like object. But what is the connection being proposed?

‘The Sun’s hold,’ as the artist reflects, ‘is inescapable, its metaphoric capacity powerful and far reaching. Humans have been making the Sun, light and darkness, meaningful for tens of thousands of years. With our hands and minds we transform the world into human-shaped narratives. Interpreting, changing and making the universe into an image we can discuss and understand to an amazing degree, but often, according to our desires, our needs.’

‘But the universe,’ Nolan continues, ‘countless suns; our Sun; nature; disease, exist relentlessly, at timeframes utterly different to our own.’

Recently donated to the collection and commissioned as part of RTÉ Illuminations (2020) – a project that saw artists explore the complex shades of lockdown – Nolan’s painting connects with the human impulse to understand, explain, and control our world, even in the face of the vastness of time and space. Acknowledging the symbolism that such an image may recall, however, she notes that ‘it feels like an odd thing to do, to paint something you should never look at directly. This affords scope for invention.’

Isabel Nolan (b.1974) is a Dublin-based artist whose practice embraces sculpture, textile, painting, drawing, photography, and writing. Approaching large ideas at an intimate scale, her work focuses on the fundamental question of how humans bring the world into meaning.

Electrons don’t have scars (2020) by Isabel Nolan is featured in ODYSSEYS (Floor 1).

Tune into The Arts House with Elmarie Mawe on Cork’s 96FM and C103FM every Sunday morning as Conor Tallon chats with assistant curator Michael Waldron about each WORK OF THE WEEK! Listen back to this week's chat here:


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