If there is one constant in John Parker’s ceramic work, it is a love of attention to surface and glaze shown through the interplay of otherwise austere geometric solids. Parker has combined his profound technical and artistic skill at creating these forms with his stage sensibilities; the works create dialogues with each other much as do actors or props on a stage. We have been left with a series of fundamental forms that interact with each other and speak to us through their different surfaces. We see not only the forms themselves, but the shadows and spaces created by their position relative to each other.
In recent years, these forms have predominantly been depicted in a strong palette of white, black, and red. These could be regarded as humanity’s most instinctive colours - even primitive languages which have few colour words all have terms for these three perceptions. A fourth colour, gold, is also included in Parker’s work, its deep metallic note throwing into relief the differing sheens and patinations of the surface glazes.
In Parker’s latest exhibition, the palette has been stripped back to just white and gold, but the artist has also moved into new areas in both shape and surface. In terms of shape, he has produced a series of “Point bowls”, circular expanses which have as a central element a sharp peak, reminiscent of the splash made by a drop of water falling into a lake. The idea of a central peak is also present in more stylised form in the two-part “Penetration” works: geometric white ridged cones enclosed within echoing gold surrounds.
More startling than these experiments in form are the experiment with texture. With his “Volcanic” works, Parker creates deep, foam-like surfaces. These are part of a long-term passion for experimentation with glaze, and have been created by adding silicon carbide to the slip, releasing oxygen to produce a bubbled effect. In a way, these works carry the idea of a matt texture to its extreme, creating ceramics which have the illusive appearance of porosity and sponginess. The name “volcanic” is well chosen; the works are reminiscent of pumice. When considered alongside the point bowls, thoughts of the moon’s surface craters come to mind. There is also definite organic feel to the pieces, though this is but an incidental side-effect of the bubbled glaze. (1) It is as if - like coral, or some alien egg - they are still growing beneath their hardened froth exoskeleton. The counterpointing of these pieces and the more sheer forms throws the pristine beauty of Parker’s ceramics into bold, beautiful relief.
1. Conversation with the artist, March 2017