Current Exhibitions

J S Parker

Plain Songs

3 Nov - 27 Nov 2018

Exhibition Works

Plain Song: Light Through Red
Plain Song: Light Through Red (2017)
Plain Song: Columns of Light - In the Blue Air
Plain Song: Columns of Light - In the Blue Air (2016)
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Grey and Rust
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Grey and Rust (2016)
Plain Song: For the Painters at St Ives
Plain Song: For the Painters at St Ives (2004)
Plain Song: Song For The Air
Plain Song: Song For The Air (2004)
Plain Song: Vertical Lyric Suite - Into the Ether
Plain Song: Vertical Lyric Suite - Into the Ether (2016)
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Winter Sun
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Winter Sun (2016)
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Facing Red
Plain Song: Columns of Light - Facing Red (2016)

Exhibition Text

Following his year as the Frances Hodgkins Fellow in in 1975, John Shotton (J S) Parker worked as a fulltime artist and in 2002 was awarded the ONZM in recognition of his services to painting. He lived and worked in Marlborough until his death in August 2017, and his paintings reflect his engagement with his surroundings as well as with his own painting practice.

A close observer of his environment, Parker endeavoured to catch the subtleties of texture and the play of light with his layers of oil paint. At the same time his works clearly explore modernist tenets of the flat surface, painterly gesture, and colour field harmonies. The surfaces of Parker’s paintings suggest furrowed land and rippled water, and the play of light through the atmosphere, but they also perform as material objects. Layers of oil paint track the physical act of painting and there is a tangible sense of the medium’s viscosity and fluidity.

One of the earliest – and certainly the largest – painting in this exhibition is the 2004 work Plain Song: For the Painters at St Ives. Peter Simpson comments that Parker was “alert to the multiple connotations of words” and notes two allusions that specifically relate to the artist’s ongoing Plain Song series: the geographical plains of the Wairau Valley and Canterbury that Parker spent most of his life in and the  subtle simplicity of medieval plainsong, in which a small number of elements are repeated and rearranged to create complex harmonies (1). Each of these references can be seen in St Ives, which is a meditative reflection on tonality and texture, and evokes the rich heat of summer rising off the land.

From one of Parker’s last series, Plain Song: Light Through Red (2017) celebrates the energy of colour. Tethered by a central yellow line, a dominant red square seems to hang suspended over the background greys. Each element of the painting is a complex blend of hue and tone, made richer still by the ridged smears of the palette knife Parker used to apply his paint. The simple vertical composition of Plain Song: Columns of Light - In the Blue Air (2016) allows the materiality of the paint and the physical movements of the artist to shine. We can see the corrugations where paint has been swiped over and through earlier mark-making and how Parker has softened dark emerald green with creams and blues to produce a lush pool of shifting colour.
 
1. Peter Simpson, “Colour and Scale, Early and Late”, Art News New Zealand, Summer 2017, p 100.

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