A Visit To the City: States of Matt Nolen


MATT NOLEN IS truly an urban cat. His work reflects the pulse of urban life as seen through the lens of a consummate visual storyteller. It’s significant to describe exactly what these fascinating narratives are made of, as the process deeply influences the art. Nolen has devised a way to combine printmaking, digital photography and glazed porcelain in a way that is totally unique. Layers of image and process are combined to tell these multi-dimensional stories. “City-States” is a series of wall-hung, two-dimensional pieces that pop into the third dimension with the addition of complexly glazed porcelain thought and speech balloons that speak the inner thoughts of the people portrayed in the prints. The mixture of media is so unlikely that it’s brilliant. Hard to describe in words, they actually speak for themselves-

Harlem- 2011 18" x 24" Slip cast Porcelain with screen printed overglaze attached to etched and embossed digital print.

















Nolen’s figures wander through their own private urban landscapes. They seem a bit lost, but full of thought. The comic strip-like thought balloons hold one or two enigmatic words, like “More.” They portray aptly the jangle of thoughts running through our minds. We rarely if ever think in full sentences, and these pieces capture those  fleeting moments of the mind.  The austere thoughts imbue the pieces with both a sense of mystery and an emotional depth.

Chelsea-- 2011 18" x 24" Slip cast Porcelain with screen printed overglaze attached to etched and embossed digital print.


















Nolen describes this body of work in an appropriately succinct manner-

“As a painter, architect and storyteller, clay provides the means by which I can marry my loves:  the painted/ printed  surface, three- dimensional form, and narrative content.  Ceramics gives me the language to communicate my stories to a worldwide audience- a language the entire worlds has used for centuries.  I discovered clay as a young man in New York City and have since used it to process the cacophony of social, political, and psychological themes that life in a diverse urban center can inspire.  I have come to see NYC as an experiment in world peace; a place where disparate energies must live successfully together in order to survive/ thrive.  This has inspired the complexities and layering of my ceramic works for twenty-eight years.

The figures of City-States were interpreted from print ad images intended to sell products to an urban audience. These figures then inspired the development of 3-D narrative porcelain thought and speech balloons translated from comic books and graphic novels that indicate the inner life of these softly etched men and women.  Digital printed landscapes were created as a stage setting for each of the seven stories depicted and were named after New York City neighborhoods.”

Coney Island-2011 18" x 24" Slip cast Porcelain with screen printed overglaze attached to etched and embossed digital print.

















An ever-restless mind, Nolen has now taken the thought balloons and isolated them, letting them tell their own story, this one is about form, color and surface.

Thoughts of Refuge- 2011, porcelain, mixed glaze surface, dimensions variable

















In these  pieces , Nolen portrays that “jangle” of thoughts running through our minds. They are  “narrative” writ large and yet at the same time an intimate view into Nolen’s own personal story.

Take a look at more of Matt Nolen’s complicated thoughtful work- http://www.nolenstudios.com/

Thoughts of Release-2011, porcelain, mixed glaze surface, dimensions variable.

About Melissa Stern

Born to mammalian parents, Melissa learned to run with the gazelles and throw a javelin like a pro while still a wee babe. She began to make arty things at a young age which eventually made her virtually unemployable. The world is often too much with her, but she steadfastly drinks only one cup of coffee a day. For more fun facts please visit her web site- www.melissa-stern.com
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