It all sounds rather Orwellian. The fictional metropolis of Nobson Newtown is an imaginary utopia created by British artist Paul Noble, in which its inhabitants are anything but happy. Or noble.
Noble has been worked on large-scale drawings depicting the city for the past 15 years, creating a city plan based on the utopian ideals of the Garden City movement and new towns such Milton Keynes. His creations have now been drawn together for an exhibition at the Gagosian Britannia Street, opening this week.
The Garden City movement is a method of urban planning outlined by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the UK in 1898. The idea was that each planned ‘garden city’ was its own self-contained community surrounded by green space and parkland. So far, so idealistic.
However, Noble’s appropriation of the ideas sees cityscapes that are anything but idyllic. His peculiarly named Nobson Newtoen is entrenched in a Swift-like satire, where such disparate elements as Mayan temples, ancient Chinese scrolls, Japanese sculptures, Fabergé eggs and brick walls all make little cameos in the highly technically drawn landscapes.
These details are arranged by Noble to form a sort of urban alphabet, which aims to underscore the ‘layers of meaning an intention within every element of the cityscapes’, according to the gallery.
Thus, the buildings spell out their purpose, for instance ‘C.L.I.P.O.N’ is the Chemical and Light Industry Plant of Nobson.
The exhibition’s centrepiece will be the enormous drawing Welcome to Nobson, created from twenty separate panels; though there will also be sculptural works, bead curtains and smaller drawings on show, each providing more snippets of context to this surreal theme.
Paul Noble’s work will be on show from 10 November – 17 December at the Gagosian Gallery, 6-24 Britannia Street, London WC1X