Nolan Preece



Art presents us with a parallel reality, clear and close at hand, but simultaneously strange and new. This paradox of verisimilitude and novelty creates a mental frisson that challenges the notion that we truly know the reality that we experience every day.

In the work of Nolan Preece, images seem to arise mysteriously, visually present yet materially tenuous, from substances that resemble flowing liquids, swirling gases, and thickened light. They move as if of their own volition to form biomorphic entities, faceted architectures, and virtual vistas. These imaginal domains, which shift from fluid to concrete, are abstract yet enigmatically charged.

Preece has referred to his work as chemical painting, and he has adapted techniques from photography’s infancy and invented his own new methods for creating images. He has adapted cliché-verre, an antique method for making handmade photographic negatives on glass plates. He covers the glass with soot and by applying mineral spirits, a kind of automatism is activated, with unpredictable images coming into being. In his chemigrams, the artist works with resists and photographic chemicals for developing and fixing the image, to achieve a wide range of complex, fascinating effects which are then digitally enhanced.

These techniques have allowed Preece to work with an open, imaginative freedom. There is a sense of perpetual becoming, of constantly discovering new visual worlds. This quality of origination, of an animating energy, runs through the dazzling variety of the artist’s work. It ranges from spatially ambiguous atmospheres, to intensely patterned grids, to visionary biologies, to impacted archeologies,.

Preece’s work evokes a speculative, poetic space where phenomena are generated, stimulated, and then entered into. The essential qualities of this experience include a sense of translucency, stilled movement, vastness within the intimate, and a quietude that contains within it a spectrum of unsettled emotions. Within these surreal and dream-like mindscapes, we are reminded of the inner space of the psyche, and the outer world of nature, in both its microscopic and macroscopic scales.

Concern for the fate of the living world is made explicit in many of Preece’s works, especially those which combine abstract imagery with signs of human development within the landscape. These works express a heightened environmental consciousness, and an awareness of the toughness, fragility, and beauty of the desert, which has always been the locus of his life and work.

John Mendelsohn



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