Holy Roller prods at the modernist ideal that painting rises above the everyday, that it should transport its audience from the realities of flat canvas in to the dizzying realm of transcendence and imagination. Modernism also believed that painting was to be founded primarily upon intellectual experience and not that of the body. Is Parkes aiming to have it both ways, to have her cake and eat it too, in this her second solo exhibition at Jonathan Smart Gallery?
November 13 - December 1, 2012
Installation view showing Heavenly High (left) and Diamond Mind Disco (right)
Heavenly High is a very beautiful painting. Upon a white and light blue ground (with hints of yellow and pink), recession planes marked in pencil radiate out to all four corners of the 1600mm square canvas. Within the graphite grid, there is as much white gesso as there is acrylic applied to the canvas. This gesso has been absorbed into the very fabric of the painting, creating a light physical sense of ground that complements the gentle pull of the grid as our eyes are led away from the centre into the sky blues of the periphery. The effect is wonderfully ethereal. Heavenly even. And the feeling is certainly otherworldly.
There is a similar lightness of being to Diamond Mind Disco – a canvas only 500mm square, but very much of the same visual intent, the same family as Heavenly High.
The two fluoro paintings that fill out the show include the title work. Here the aims are the same, the gamble similar, but it seems all bets are off. Holy Roller and Happy Hardcore are busy, intense paintings. Beside the light porous qualities of Heavenly High, Parkes employs in Holy Roller a variety of painterly strategies to transcend the flatness of her canvas frame. As with many of the crumpled and billowed paintings for which she is well known, Holy Roller has paint tipped and poured over the canvas first, and then a grid painted over the top of it. (Having been painted flat, Parkes’ folded canvases were scrunched only when dry, and the process required compression around the stretcher.)
Some of the fluoro painted grid facets in Holy Roller are loosely brushed and left transparent, allowing views to the almost cartographic landscape forms in greens and blues below. Other segments comprise densely painted skins of paint angled variously to support the twisting moving grid as it veers optically in to the viewer’s space. Holy Roller comes at you.
Happy Hardcore however, is tighter and flatter but still buzzes with energy. Indeed there are passages of paint here that almost vibrate with colour and intent. Paint is smeared, layered and seemingly blurred around a raw canvas centre. There is tautness and a certain tension here. Much is high key – more like the hardcore zone than the radiant, trance-like qualities of Heavenly High.
After the literal volumes of Parkes’ signature paintings, Holy Roller (the exhibition) signals this still young artist’s ambition to push hard the confines of paint on stretched canvas. Through traditional process, which is here both visceral and optical, just what is still possible? Can Parkes via studio experience and research, take us to where we have not been before?
Details of Works
Holy Roller, 2012
Heavenly High, 2012
Happy Hardcore, 2012
Diamond Mind Disco, 2012