As I write, along one wall of the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate run three drawings with Trev in the titles.
Trev (1997), Small Trev (1997-8) and (Large) TREV (2012).

The earliest drawing is
Trev, It is reproduced in the little book that went with the Chisenhale show back in 1998 but wasn’t included in the show itself, so the present showing at the Tate is the first time I’ve seen the work. Apparently, the three drawings relate to a childhood friend of Paul Noble’s who died about twenty years ago. That would be around 1992, and if Paul and Trev were about the same age, Trev would have been about 30 when he died. Too young.

Sofia Karamani puts it nicely in the booklet that goes with the Turner Prize show. ‘Trev
is dominated by an unusual (for Noble) dense cloud formation, cut through by a rainbow. In its centre, a seemingly suspended ‘Trev-greenhouse’ is filled with beautifully cared for plants, their long cascading roots reaching down to a pool of water. The poignant scene conveys a fragile attempt to protect a memory which is gently rooted in water, but not grounded.’


There is a brick wall behind the Trevhouse. Each of the bricks that make up the wall has a date written on it. In the middle of the wall the dates are from 1965 and 1966. As you go from left to right, the days tick by, one by one. Occasionally, the artist has written ‘
each brick’ instead of the date, though no day is missed out as a result. Every single day of the childhood that the friends shared counts, is how I read this, provisionally. I have emailed the Tate information office asking for the dates marked on the top left and the bottom right bricks, presumably the earliest and the latest, to see if anything can be inferred from the data.

Sofia Karamani’s text is good also when it comes to interpreting Small Trev: ‘Small Trev bears the heavy weight of loss and frustration. The sky has now broken loose in a rainfall of blocky drops. They are about to crush onto the impenetrable, concrete Trev-building, this time built firmly into the ground.

I’d say the ‘building’ was a grave. I’d say the artist doesn’t think the monument is going to last that long, never mind the flesh and bones that lie buried beneath it. Do we live in a forgiving universe? We do not. Being born is the miracle. After that, miracles don’t happen.


The Tate has got back to me with the information that the earliest brick in
Trev is dated 22.9.1963 and the latest 14.2.(67). My informant uses brackets because the last day may be partial but its neighbour on the left says 13.2.67. Paul’s official biography indicates that he was born in 1963, but I suspect Trev may have been as well, since the drawing is a tribute to him. I’ll assume that in 1967 the friendship between Paul and Trev was ongoing, but I apologise to all concerned if I’ve got that wrong.

What about
(Large) Trev? Here is Sofia Karamani again: The ‘Trev-greenhouse’ appears crumbled by the passing of time. The raindrops are falling in long sharp lines, forming an extensive sea of ripples, their calming ambient rhythm almost audible. The structure is consciously defused from physical to ephemeral, an impression rather than a memory.


The Guardian has made a video of Adrian Searle going round this year’s Turner Prize show. At one stage in it he’s staring into the central motif of (Large) TREV. He speaks well of the work, though he’s not quite as complimentary about Nobson Newtown as he was when writing about the Whitechapel show of 2004, his reservation being that he’s not sure where the work is going. Really, Adrian? Perhaps you might focus on where you’ve already been and stop worrying too much about where you’re still to go. As the actress said to the bishop at the end of a world cruise.

Ben Luke of the
Evening Standard interviewed Paul Noble at the studio in Hackney Wick which he’s shared for 12 years with his partner Georgina Starr. I guess that’s the studio he moved to from the Camberwell one where I met him that day in 1999. Anyway, the art critic writes:

One new drawing in the show is (Large) TREV (2012), a memorial to a childhood friend who died around 20 years ago. It depicts a greenhouse in the middle of the sea whose plants are decaying and pots are smashed. Inspired by the Sicilian graveyards and the cemetery island in Venice, the drawing features two pedalos in Noble’s trademark shape (“poodaloos”, he calls them, delightedly) at the foot of the entrance. Long ropes evoke a childhood game that he and Trev would play.

I’m reminded of a quote from the Wallpaper interview that I’ve already used, but which seems pertinent here also. Noble is quoted as saying about his youth in Whitley Bay: “being an introverted teenager listening to Joy Division, where there’s nothing better to do than sitting with your mate, looking at the sea.”

So what was it that Paul Noble said to Ben Luke about a childhood game? Perhaps it was some combination of Rope-a-dope (which I’ve just made up and only have a vague notion of) and Anagram.
Let teenage Paul and Trevor choose a word from the above interview. Say, ‘introverted’. There are no awkward letters in that and I can see at a glance that such words as: ‘END IT, DIE, DEVO, TORN, NOT, EVER, TREVOR, TENDER, TREV, RIDE, RIDER, RIOT, DIRT are there in suggestive combinations. But I mustn’t be clever-clever here. Let’s just say that, as I envisage the Whitley Bay scene, Paul and Trev have no difficulty amusing themselves.

Back to Ben Luke writing about the mature artist: ‘He says he was told by his gallerist that you can’t bring people back once they are dead. “But in a way you can through art,” he says, “because you remake them, and if the work has enough energy in it to be interesting to other people, it will be looked after by those people. There is life beyond our organic span through these odd things that we make.”’

Miracles of a sort do happen, then.

The Tate has commissioned a two-minute video of Paul Noble working in his studio. In the still taken from it below, the artist is seen at work on the middle-left section of the nine-sheet drawing,
(Large) TREV. It seems to comprise nothing but rain dropping into the sea. The artist is drawing the same pattern over and over again. As he drew row after row of bricks in Trev and block after block of rain in Little Trev. Resurrection through repetition?

Once again I remember that it is impossible to buy an umbrella in Nobson Newtown. That is one town where there is to be no denying of the elements - or the facts of life.

Screen shot 2012-11-13 at 16.45.48

The above image reveals certain aspects of Paul Noble’s working practice. The paper is not pure white, and to make the ripples the artist appears to use a white pencil as well as lead pencils. (That is probably an idiotic thing to write.) Or was the paper shaded to begin with and then a rubber used to produce some of the circling centred on each raindrop? I don’t know. His elbow leans on a sheet of glass to protect the drawing, though his left hand, the hand holding the pencil, rests only on a sheet of paper. On go the ripples in a circular motion, finished off (I imagine) with a ruled line to capture the instant that the raindrop hits the volume of water.

In the middle of the table a cut flower looks on. An orange bloom - pouting and gorgeous - from Trev’s greenhouse?

‘One thing is true and the rest is lies... ‘

What’s the second line of the couplet again?...

Nope, I’ve lost it.


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