PRIMA MATERIA – Six Chapel Row Gallery, Bath, 2004
FOREWORD BY VIVIENNE LIGHT
As a painter, Ione Parkin’s concern is with the essential elements of the landscape, with its raw constituents and dynamic evolution. Tidal erosion and storm deposits, feint trace marks of archaeology, sustaining energy of earth, geological upheaval and erosion - this is the stuff of Parkin’s landscapes. This diverse world which straddles the abstract and figurative is one which Parkin explores in her micro-macro cosmos paintings. Here form, structure and movement confuse and confound scale: animate and inanimate surfaces co-exist in self-perpetuating equilibrium.
Parkin’s paintings are partly a visual mapping of this world: the peacock blue-green iridescence of copper carbonate or the oxidised rich black-browns of iron pyrites; soft green-grey lichen and parasitic growths; burnt sienna and burnt umber caves and soils; speckled cerulean nebulae systems; subterranean rocks and liquid water. All these, and more, are parts of a universe from which she draws source and subject and which she then submits to the process of painting. Her early paintings of Tenerife’s volcanic territory made direct colour reference to the place. Since then, any such local reference has become absorbed into a personal language of colour.
During the actual physical manipulation of oil paint, to which synthetic resin is added, new-found forms emerge ‘freeze-framed in time and motion’. There is a tactile, organic and geological texture to her work which is surprisingly fine and fragile. She initially gleans detailed photographic information from the landscape but this she leaves to one side when beginning to put paint on canvas. Applying ground colour in oxides she then uses a turpentine cloth to draw light back into the surface. The surface is very fluid and loose at this stage. Next, she uses a method of transference in which intricate calligraphic and minute seismographic marks are printed onto the base-ground. United in mass and number these individual marks visually unite as one complexity, one fine skin film. When painted in a particular vellum white, calmness descends over the composite surface and with it comes a feeling of integral wholeness.
The making of a painting is for Parkin ‘an important meeting with a moment in time… making contact with the eternal [and] unrecorded’. She sees her role as a form of monitoring rather than asserting will over a painting, of tracking down, following the scent, capturing a vision. While a student at Winchester College of Art (1985-88) she wrote a comparative study on Zen philosophy and psycho-analytic theory. The philosophy behind Zen painting still has a lasting influence on her methods and approach to painting: the aesthetics of simple ink brush work, the sense that less is more, the creation of depth in a 2D plane, the cyclical and reiterative nature of life and the internalisation of thought processes which lead to external expression. Today Parkin continues to explore the relationship between landscape in the widest sense and her own inner world - a world not only of intellect but of subjective emotions, memories, perceptions and experiences.
Parkin works in a physical, intuitive manner. Perhaps appropriately to a Celt of Welsh extraction she works quickly and in a vigorous manner, although since becoming a mother she says she has become more patient, more nurturing. Her canvases can measure up to 1m30 x 1m60. These are placed flat, a few inches off the floor; a positioning which echoes that used by the abstract expressionist, Jackson Pollock. The placement of the canvas necessitates her working in aerial mode; working on top and leaning and reaching across the canvas. This results in considerable shifts in the weight and application of paint which consequently contributes to differential surface qualities and timbres. The physical choreography involved in making a work, in its coming into being, is important.
The resin which Parkin mixes with the paint neither alters nor obfuscates colour. Instead, as with natural amber, it brings out an inherent glow and translucency. Since working in the horizontal she has applied paint with any tool except a brush. Thus pieces of solidified and crusted paint may be applied with a palette knife or fine marks traced with a feather or frond of a fern using a relief technique. Taking the brush out of the process has contributed to thepaintings ‘looking as though they happen within themselves’. With this has come a visible withdrawal of presence of self from the actual painting. Fused pieces of pure invention, spirit and matter, she is happy for her paintings to exist in their own right. Hinged between worlds of reality and invention, friction and resonance, of thought and process, they stand alone. The fact that Parkin has the confidence to let her paintings speak for themselves is a testimony both to her skills and to her vision as a painter.
Publisher: Canterton Books
12 August 2004
Re-inventing the Landscape: contemporary painters and Dorset: Foreword by Simon Olding. Author Vivienne Light
Don Potter: an inspiring century. Vivienne Light. Foreword by Terence Conran
Robin Welch: ceramic artist. Vivienne Light & Simon Olding
Crafts Study Centre: essays for the opening. Foreword by Christopher Frayling
Footsteps: Introduction Gabriella Falk
Forthcoming Publications include:
Autobiography: Mike Dodd, Studio potter (October 2004)
Hilary Goddard (title awaiting) (October 2004)
A book of prints: Martyn Brewster by Vivienne Light & Simon Olding (2005)
Crafts Study Collection (2005)
The Art of the Chase: Vivienne Light (2005)