When creating a series of work, John Parker sets himself strict parameters within which to operate. This means that he needs not only to exercise control in how and what he produces, but also requires careful consideration about how these parameters themselves shape what is made. For many years he worked with a single commercial glaze, the same as that used on ceramic whiteware; embracing the industrial referents, he has described himself as a “one-man-factory” (1).
There are no extraneous elements in White on White and by removing the distraction of colour, Parker requires us to carefully consider the works in front of us. The exhibition title directs us to consider both the surface treatments (shiny and reflective, soft and matte, crackled), the decoration (grooves, ridges), and the forms (conical, orb, cylindrical).
Parker assembles, inverts, and plays with the scale of forms to create hybrid vessels (Matt White Grooved Vessels; Matt White Grooved Bottles; Diabolo works): these are white (object) on white (object). Based on their titles (bottle, bowl, vessel) the works are ostensibly utilitarian, but they are also explorations of the enclosure and displacement of space, and the limits of shape and form.
The craquelé finish has a long history; as early as the 12th century BCE in China the technique was deliberately encouraged in Song period ceramics. It is a visible representation of both the intense firing processes and chemical interactions that go into the works’ production, as well as a reminder of the fragility of the finished object. The craquelé disrupts the ‘clean’ finish of the vessel surfaces but in doing so becomes integral to their function as decorative objects.