Editor’s Note: Nolan work originally appeared on the site in the article by Anna Schier, “Scientists as Artists”
Nolan began his professional career as a nuclear engineer that spoke to his analytical and mathematical side before he transitioned to art. In many of his works, evidence exists of his attraction to natural structure, physical phenomenon and mathematical representation of space and time. In other paintings, there is a distinct attempt to avoid the analytical approaching emotional abstract expressionism. But even in his abstracts, structure and geometrics are plainly visible. His scientific background definitely influences his current art work. “When I was in grad school I used to dream in math,” he explains. “I would actually solve the problems I was working on in grad school in my sleep. I do the same thing with my painting. When I’m in that dream state images will start coming to me, very similar to the way I would be dreaming in math years ago.”
Often when he mixes colors, especially when working with blue, he remembers the blue glow of the nuclear fuel rods from his days as a nuclear engineer. “I remember vividly looking into a nuclear reactor the first time and seeing a soft blue glow of the fuel rods. The blue glow was Cherenkov radiation produced by radiation from the nuclear fuel rods interacting with the surrounding water. It was the most beautiful blue I have ever seen, heavenly and yet somehow elusive.” Nolan adds, “I try to mix colors close to what I remember. To date, I have not achieved it. With resin however, I create colors with a sense of transparency and depth, similar to how I perceived Cherenkov radiation.” This is one of many reasons why Nolan works with tinted resin.
As with science, Nolan likes to experiment and discover with his art. He asks the question “what if?” This is another reason why he currently works with tinted resin. He has some but not total control over the resin. The results often are a surprise. It is like working with a chemistry set.
In the recently begun series of wall sculptures, the play of geometry, energy and mood is the focus. The sculptures are designed and engineered from the plastic lattice tiles, similar to benzene molecular structures, which are then connected to form the base, to which layers of colored resin are added to cover the tiles. Collectively, the components develop a conversation of the organic and the engineered presenting a strong sense of crystalline structures. The pieces also have a strong emotional elements, play of color and light and impart a sense of energy. Similarly, the sculpture under construction composed completely of business cards as a monument to Nolan’s corporate pass was engineered and designed prior to construction with cube-like structures are at its core. Regardless of the art piece, structure, engineering, and allusions to natural physical beauty can be found while attempting to express an emotional state.
“As I mature and evolve as an artist, my goal is that my art becomes more personally reflective, accept my scientific inclinations, and elicit an emotional response from the viewer. I want the viewer to leave questioning or contemplating ideas which they have not challenged in the past,” Nolan commented.