Evin Nolan: distinguished painter and sculptor

Artist’s works are represented in many private and public collections in Ireland and abroad

Evin Nolan:  July 21st, 1930-July 22nd, 2016. Photograph: Don McGuinness

Evin Nolan: July 21st, 1930-July 22nd, 2016. Photograph: Don McGuinness


Evin Nolan was a prolific and distinguished painter and sculptor, whose works are represented in many private and public collections.

He was born at the Curragh Camp, to Lieut Col Martin Leo Nolan and Florence Carroll. The family moved to Dublin after three years and he went on to attend Terenure College, followed by the National College of Art and Design in Kildare Street, though he was mainly a self-taught artist.

Nolan’s early inspiration was drawn from Matisse, Mondrian, Modigliani, Picasso and Lipchitz. He exhibited at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art in 1955 and the RHA in 1956 before moving to London for a couple of years. On returning to live in Dublin in the early 1960s, he earned a living drawing cartoons for Dublin Opinion, Humour Variety and Laugh magazines, and by working as an extra in various films at Ardmore Studios.

After his first solo exhibition at the Dublin Painters’ Gallery in 1963 he began to be influenced by the renowned St Ives School of Painting, David Smith, Anthony Caro, Robyn Denny, as well as by Ken Noland, Frank Stella and Native American Art.

By 1967, he was a committee member at the new Project Arts Centre in Lower Abbey Street (and subsequently in South King Street), where he consistently exhibited and worked despite very limited funding. In the late 1970s he taught at the Dún Laoghaire College of Art and Design.

Solo shows

Nolan frequently exhibited at the Irish Exhibition of Living Art, the Oireachtas, the Claremorris Open and the Independent Artist group exhibitions. He also had solo shows at the Project Arts Centre and the United Arts Club, Kenny Gallery in Galway in the 1970s, and at the Arts Council in Belfast and the Grafton Gallery in the 1980s. In 1999 he had a major retrospective at the RHA. The catalogue’s foreword was by noted international arts critic Cyril Barrett.

His works feature in many collections, notably those of the Arts Council, Crawford Art Gallery in Cork, IMMA, UCD, TCD, NUIG, Bank of Ireland, AIB, RTÉ, St James’s Hospital, Irish Roadstone and PJ Carroll. Large outdoor sculptures of his, made of concrete or steel, can be found in Navan, Co Meath, Castlebar, Co Mayo, and Jordanstown, Co Antrim. Of his oeuvre Nolan said, “My works are a unity of painting and sculpture: spatial-colour-structure. It is of real space and colour, as opposed to illusory space.”

Nolan was a lifelong swimmer from childhood summers spent in Wicklow to later holidays in Wexford, taking in an extended trip to Hawaii along the way. Aside from creating art, Nolan’s lifelong passions included literature, theatre, physics and astronomy. He wrote an unpublished humorous play in which he infused Dublin characters in a classical Greek story.

He loved attending art gallery openings and afterwards bar sessions in such Dublin haunts as McDaids, The Bailey, Davy Byrne’s, Kehoe’s, Doheny & Nesbitt’s, Toner’s, Buswells or the Shelbourne Hotel, often ending the night at the United Arts Club, before a final snack at the Manhattan diner. He was truly a Dubliner of the rare auld times.