At earlier stages the work of artist Rachel Noble was monochrome. Now a spectrum of colour refracts across scans, collages and visuals created by the Slade School of Fine Art graduate, whose interest in light has seen her awarded a series of art prizes, collaborations with club night Just Jam and the canvas of producer Visionist’s latest ‘I’m Fine’ EP cover, out on US label Lit City Trax, next week.
Using digital scanners as a form of camera, Noble captures light reacting with materials at a scale closing in on one-to-one. Free of context and allowing for a kaleidoscope of effects her pieces venture toward a metaphysical space, where intangible forces take shape and the connotations of traditional materials, such as clay or marble, are lost. Instead, video, screens, scanners, software and found fabrics create a narrative purely in Noble’s imagination – chopped and squared, rendered and projected into new palaces of immersion.
It’s a simple metaphor –light head-to-head with darkness – but one that is also universally understood and with almost limitless potential. The only prism is Noble and the tools that place boundaries on experimentation, in turn effecting a future perception of a contemporary aesthetic. The difference to projecting and scanning in this is key. Where allowing for flexibility between platforms and a constant recycling and renewal in the process of working with imagery, material and abstractions of a more ephemeral nature, where music is it’s most obvious comparison. Through listening to certain DJs and artists Noble found herself at underground music nights and soon began making visuals ‘Just Jam’ on Tim and Barry’s Don’t Watch That TV and as rhythm becomes central to her video and moving-image work and she has begun to produce radio shows for NTS, where she’s found even more musical collaborations – a new source of energy inspiration, and dialogue to be had.
aqnb: What do you aim for in your work?
Rachel Noble: Honestly, I think my aim is beauty. I strive to create something beautiful. What I find to be beautiful is obviously a complex construct that is constantly evolving. I like to create spaces that look like they could be part of the macrocosm or the microcosm, something that might exist naturally, but is made up of material created in quite a DIY, experimental way, often using mundane objects, materials and equipment. Without trying to sound too dramatic or sickly, in its simplest form it is about breaking out of the mundane, often acting on quite strong visual impulses, and creating something honest as a way of engaging with the world and other people; putting something of myself into a visual manifestation. It’s a place to explore all your interests, impulses, emotions, visual stimulation, the things you react to, and a way to create and open up a dialogue with life. I like to focus in on incidental beauty, such as the glare of the sun as it is reflected by a glass surface, artefacts of light in photographic images, and make something spectacular out of these.
aqnb: Why do you choose the colour palette that you do? And is that directly linked to your interest in light?
RN: My work stems from quite an impulsive and intuitive place – and I work with colours that I have a strong reaction to. I am often trying to accumulate a collection of the miniscule or fleeting apparitions of beauty I find when manipulating light and capturing it photographically and digitally. The colours are inextricably linked to light, but I think my interest in it almost comes from another angle. I am drawn to the disparity between its mysterious, ephemeral and formless nature, and its power and incessant energy and beauty. I’m fascinated by creating images using light as a material; capturing it and forming images that look like light, although these often reside in the digital realm in which I can’t help but think of them as existing as visualisations of digital information. There is some importance in these images being from a material origin, the physical capturing of light to create this digital material. There are colours that I associate with being digital manifestations of light, such as those of video, screens, and projectors, of which I am drawn to. It is something about their intensity and clarity.
aqnb: Is collage a method of working with a spectrum?
RN: I can see why you ask that – and I think perhaps it is, yes. It allows for a very particular focus on certain colours – collage is a way of extracting them and arranging them together. I use collage as an extension of drawing, almost like a painter perhaps, in the way I strive to construct an image or a surface. I am quite magpie-like in the way I collect visual material, collage perfectly maintains this impulsive action of cropping, isolating and focusing in on something. It became a way to see what would happen if I arranged all these pieces together, whilst still maintaining their integrity as individual objects almost; to create something quite intense and condensed. That is where the title for the piece ‘Hyperbolic’ came from. I saw it as an exaggeration or a reiteration of something.
aqnb: Does music influence your art work?
RN: It does, but possibly in quite an abstract way. Apart from the specific artwork created in collaboration with music, I feel I have often tried to create work that exists in a similar way to music, something abstract but structured, producing a more emotional, physical response. I find there can be something quite addictive and intense about the process of making work, and the constant scanning for visual material. I definitely find correlations when listening to music and talking to people who produce music about they way they do this. There’s something similar in the digital nature of production, and of collecting, sampling, chopping up and rearranging specific material to create something new
aqnb: What kind of scanner are you using in your scanner works? A 3D one or a hand held one? It looks like ‘Suspended Vista’ could also be a visual scan –Is it just an interesting tool to use or does it have more importance to you?
RN: I’m using a normal scanner, as I was at the time exploring it as a kind of camera, a tool for capturing light and making images. I was interested in its restricted focus on a flat surface, and I was playing around with scanning objects, light and spaces. I was using an odd lens I bought in a junk shop, and consequently transformed the scanner into a kind of projector. I became interested in the scanner and its particular movement and light, and decided to create a video piece. The images I was making were hard to place, and had an abstract nature that I found captivating. There was something very sensual about the light moving over a surface and transforming into beautiful, otherworldly patterns as it moved through various materials. I think I was interested in scanning as a form of intense focus on a surface, something that stems back to drawing. **
Header image: Rachel Noble, ‘Scape 1’ (2013).