10 April 2020


These Extraordinary Times with Isabel Nolan

Q & A

'Miracle (after Sassetta)' work in progress. Image: Courtesy the Artist.

These Extraordinary Times with Isabel Nolan

LP: How has your daily routine changed?

IN: Yes, in every way. I’ve a table set up in the corner of the sitting room and spend quite a lot of time each day sitting here but sitting doesn’t quite translate into a work routine. An upcoming show has been postponed indefinitely – probably til 2021. I miss the urgency and structure that a deadline brings and keep interrupting myself: checking the news, thinking about what I might eat and mentally noting the analogies and euphemisms for the situation we are in. I've been working on drawings and some small steel/fabric sculptures, mostly between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

LP: Many artists work in solitude ordinarily. How has isolation or social distancing affected you in these times?

IN: A lot of practical things can’t be done. Otherwise I’m used to working alone yet doing so, knowing that that aloneness can be easily interrupted with social activity, meetings or errands is an entirely different order of solitude. The imperceptible hum of knowing other artists are at work in their spaces is oddly companionable. I miss the studio. The cocoon of home is kind of comforting when the world feels contagious, but my normally quite large reserves of unsocial-ness are beginning to run low. I don’t love chatting via tech or phones - my Mam is the same; we’d a long phone call, about 15 minutes, the other day. Unprecedented.

LP: If there is any silver lining, what is it?

IN: Not yet, but at a stretch…

It’s good to live in a temporarily more socially democratic, de-privatised, caring society but the price is brutal. And the left leaning optimism that we can’t possibly go back to business as usual is heartening; whether these sentiments will be borne out is another thing.

Brexit is out of the news. But so is climate change…

Irish humans – like others presumably - are very good at community, charity and ordinary kindness – that’s evident in the stories at the fag end of news bulletins.

I’m intermittently hopeful there will be shreds of silver lining. Humans have been through stuff like this so many times.

LP: Make up your own question and answer it.

IN: Is there more pressure on people to have opinions right now? Every second person seems to have opinions about a volatile, unfolding event and it’s getting tedious and is not terribly helpful. How people are feeling might be more interesting. I was thinking the other day that I’d quite like if everyone on the planet wrote/dictated a journal entry on an appointed day whilst we are mid-crisis, and just stashed them away. 10 – 1,000 words. World Journal Day 2020. The world seems smaller than usual right now.