In the current political climate, few things seem more appealing that a quiet, dark room where one can shut out the world. Perhaps it is this escapist fantasy, then, that is the drive behind David Noonan’s new exhibition at Stuart Shave/Modern art entitled ‘A Dark and Quiet Place’.
The exhibition, housed in the gallery’s pristine new space on Vyner Street in London’s East End is centered around a new film by Noonan, his first moving image work in 10 years. The film, which gives the exhibition its title, is displayed on a cinema sized screen in the far end of the ground floor gallery. Entering the room I struggle to find what turns out to be a sizeable bench due to the all-encompassing darkness which greets me. There is something undeniably comforting, and liberating about the darkness of the space and the ambient electronic soundtrack which introduces you to the gentle, reflective pace of the film, drifting in and out of intensity, punctuating your experience.
The work itself comprises of a set of montaged archival images collected by Noonan over several years. These vary in content and composition but a retrofuturist aesthetic persists throughout, evoking the possibility of alternative worlds and futures as well as the collapsed sense of time which the film inhabits. Images from theatre, set design and architectural maquettes frequently appear reflecting on ideas of performance, time, scale, and the imaginary. Figures, often faceless appear sporadically throughout the work, their freeze-framed bodies eluding to movement, something which otherwise only manifests in the film through gradual panning and zooming. Abstract geometric images also appear throughout, contributing to a continual tension between ideas of figuration and abstraction.
Noonan has made subtle but key interventions into each of the images. Digital editing removes certain characters, objects and structures creating new spaces and opportunities for interpretation and imagination. These new architectural forms and scenarios are further complicated by Noonan’s use of gradual fading. In the film, this technique, along with the overlay and contrasting of images, becomes a form of world making; juxtaposing once separate images, momentarily inserting characters and objects from elsewhere in new settings, zooming in and out of possible realities. The difference between stage, maquette and abstract image becomes almost indiscernible, merging the plains of reality, performance and pure invention. Through this process, Noonan creates an environment in which the viewer fills in the gaps, makes new connections of their own, and uses the imaginary as a tool to construct their own alternative futures.
For Noonan, it is not just escapism which lies in ‘A Dark and Quiet Place’ but a much needed glimpse at alternative worlds and imaginaries to both momentarily escape but also inform and invigorate our interactions with the contemporary moment.