The Environmental Fighter: Noelle Phares

Following the success of our latest artist preview, and her first exhibition outside of North America, discover the work, life, and inspiration behind Noelle Phares. A passionate environmentalist whose works are prompting us to think more deeply about the world we live in today.

“The end goal for me is the same: shepherd humanity back to an embodied respect for this astounding planet by actively considering the beauty and complexity that lies before us.”

Following the success of our latest artist preview, and her first exhibition showcasing outside of North America, we wanted to further share the work, life, and inspiration behind of one of our most favourite artists featured in the gallery; Noelle Phares.

Initially an environmental scientist living in San Francisco, it is her self-proclaimed passion for the outdoors and the extreme complexity of life that has fuelled the inspiration for her works; that is, the visual result of human influence on the natural world. Painting throughout the American west for the past ten years, she believes humans have increasingly become disengaged with their wild roots. Finding inspiration in the wild terrain of Colorado, it is here she attempts to bring the outside energy onto each canvas and thus, into the daily lives of her viewers. Her favourite themes being an array of mountainous and desert-scapes, places that have always placed her back to a state of tranquil balance.

Now based in Denver, Colorado, a city where the fluorescent lights and the busyness of urban life lay just a stone’s throw from the purple landscape of the Rocky Mountains, it is precisely this convergence of natural and artificial that Noelle plays with in her paintings. As a mixed media artist specialising in a variety of mediums such as watercolour, gouache, acrylic, and often even embroidery, her technique and application is as wild and untamed as her subject matter, with a resulting tantalizing and hypnotic push and pull effect, her work is pièce de resistance of juxtaposition and opposites working alongside each other; fractured landscapes, broken up by lines and abstract detail suggestive of modern architecture, her work is a reminder of the world we inhabit today.

Confessing her process is one of ordered chaos - as a messy painter and perpetual night owl, she delves into a painting without a concrete vision of an end product, allowing each element to be built up individually and successively. Admittedly, there lies an undeniable optimism in her paintings; the vivid hues and liveliness of natural wildlife, especially at a time when political and economic factors are draining our resources, Noelle argues “it seems impossible that colour could remain in the weathered wrinkles of an aging terrain. And yet, life persists”. Each painting tells its own tale, some of nostalgic, warm memories, others of darker, sinister explorations of todays world and the ever-encroaching presence of humans and modernity over nature.

However, Noelle is careful to approach this from a somewhat open perspective. Whilst raising awareness of the fragility and beauty of nature, she is keen to also express and highlight the beauty and functionality that is presented when these dualities are treat with symbiosis, rather than nemesis. However, that is not to say Noelle’s work has not previously ventured directly into political commentary, when in 2018, she began working on a series of scenes portraying intensely fragmented and broken landscapes with harsh geometric shapes and lines. Reflective of the impending danger of Trumps administration over the natural world, she hopes to remind the viewer of what is at stake. Blending raw landscape with abstract structure, she presents us with a landscape that explores this dynamic tension, not far removed from the actual reality of today’s scenery, and thereby opening up conversation and in turn, prompting us to think more deeply about the world we live in today.

“I choose to paint places that have been altered, for better or for worse, either directly or indirectly by human development.”

As a passionate environmentalist conservatist, she hopes to see environmentalism accompany the likes of feminism within the ranks of new modern agendas, “with brush in hand, I join environmental fighters with a new set of tools”.

Noelle's must see exhibition 'The Way We Saw It' is showing now. Through the eyes of Noelle we are asked to consider the environment, it’s ecology and our own wider existence and impact on the planet. Discover the exhibition.