Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s work consistently presents a form of self-portraiture, be it through silhouetted shadows of the artists themselves or through references to the everyday cultural environments that they occupy.
Miss Understood and Mr Meanor is an image of the original work of the same title (1997), and belongs to one of the artists’ first Shadow Sculptures. Two shadows the shape of Nobel’s and Webster’s head are projected onto a wall by lighting up two separate assemblages of accumulated rubbish. The work is surprising and intriguing, repulsive and seductive simultaneously, and it is an example of how the artists redefined the ability of abstract forms to become figurative works.
Noble and Webster’s shadow pieces are typical examples of the artist-duo’s continuing partiality for the (double) self-portrait and a deliberate emulation of Plato’s phenomenological cavern allegory in the Republic. The idea that shadows are a diminished reflection of reality (with the real form and truth being that which projects them, and only knowledge of the form constitutes real knowledge) casts a socio-critical angle onto Noble and Webster’s work. And it raises questions about the artists’ choice of medium: trash, debris and animal cadavers are true knowledge and pure form in Noble and Webster’s world.