Isabel Nolan, The Weakened Eye of Day

12 February – 2 April 2016

Mercer Union, Toronto, ON, Canada

Isabel Nolan, installation view of The Weakened Eye of Day at Irish Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Isabel Nolan
Dreams of no thing, no time. 2014
watercolour on canvas
40 x 30 cm
15.7 x 11.8 in  

Isabel Nolan
The weakening eye of day, 2014
mild steel, wadding, wood, thread
227 x 218 x 377 cm
89.4 x 85.8 x 148.4 in

Isabel Nolan
Ecstatic John Donne, 2014
watercolour and water-based oil on canvas
50.5 x 40.5 cm
19.9 x 15.9 in  

Isabel Nolan
The effect of its past and the cause of its future, 2014
polystyrene, jesmonite, plaster bandage, paint
dimensions variable

Mercer Union is delighted to present a solo exhibition by Irish artist Isabel Nolan. The exhibition, The Weakened Eye of Day, explores how light manifests as a metaphor in our thoughts, obsessions and pursuits and includes text, sculpture, drawings and textiles. This will be Nolan’s first solo exhibition in Canada.


The exhibition takes its title from Thomas Hardy’s poem The Darkling Thrush (1899), in which the sun, described as ‘the weakening eye of day’, is a dismal star drained of its force by a gloomy pre-centennial winter afternoon.  The show is a material account of the strangeness of the world from the formation of the planet’s crust to the death of the sun and the enduring preoccupation with light as a metaphor for truth.


Isabel Nolan’s work is underpinned by a desire to examine and capture in material form the moments of intensity that can define our encounters with the objects around us; inexplicable and unsettling moments that leave us with a heightened awareness of what is means to be alive. For Nolan this exploration happens through making things – whether monumental or intimate in scale, they are presented to us as tentative and precarious markers of the experience of our place beneath the sun. Recent solo exhibitions include Launch Pad, New York (2015); Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2014); The Model, Sligo, Ireland (2011); Musée d’art moderne de Saint Etienne, France (2012); The Return Gallery, Goethe Institute, Dublin (2012/13); Gallery 2, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2008) and Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2005). In 2005, Nolan represented Ireland at the 51st Venice Biennale as part of a group exhibition, Ireland at Venice 2005.


This exhibition originated at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and will travel to the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, in June 2016.

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