FRITH STREET GALLERY, GOLDEN SQUARE, LONDON until July 27
|12 x digital pigment prints on Hahnemuehle Photo Rag 308gsm, each 76 x 60 cm (c) artist|
Is this image just a pleasingly balanced pattern of black and white abstracts? Perhaps not...
They are photographs of the perimeter wall of Pentonville Prison in London. The broken surface of the wall had been repaired by workmen with white paint. Parker photographed the walls literally seconds before they were obliterated forever by magnolia paint. Later that day, with the paint barely dry, a prisoner (incarcerated for a shot gun murder) escaped from the prison after scaling the walls.
Cornelia Parker is an artist who makes us see for the first time what was already there. She has shot at objects, thrown them from cliffs, blown them up and rolled over them with a steam roller. Her sculptural processes have been described as ‘mimicking cartoon deaths’. But out of destruction she creates tragedy and unimaginable beauty. The art critic Adrian Searle in the catalogue of a 1991 Chisenhale Gallery exhibition wrote '(Parker) can convince you that the living room is an ocean, that buildings can breathe and that the universe can be turned inside out, like glove'.
In the current show is Black Path (Bunhill Fields). It's a cast of the spaces between paving stones at the non-conformist cemetery of Bunhill Fields. William Blake the artist, poet, visionary and author of Jerusalem, is buried there. The work is resonant with memories of childhood games across the world where you pretend that if you 'step on the cracks', you might fall down them into everlasting blackness - or at the very least the bears will eat you. By pouring liquid cold-cure rubber into some of the gaps and leaving it to set, Parker was able to lift out a 'map' of the stonework. The captured rubber cracks upturned, cast in black bronze and placed on steel pins hover over the floor like a petrified line drawing.
Parker’s work is both dramatic and delicate, powerful and intricate. Perhaps her most famous piece is Cold Dark Matter: an exploded view 1991 once a garden shed, filled with car boot sales junk, then blown up by the army. You can see how the fragments were transformed into this beautiful installation wrapped in unfathomable shadows. It is not in the Frith Street Gallery exhibition, indeed it will never be in any exhibition again as it was destroyed in a tragic warehouse fire. Another memorable piece is Twenty Years of Tarnish (wedding presents). Two silver goblets are displayed but Parker focuses on the tarnish, the worthless byproduct of 25 years 'which we avoid psychologically'. Heart of Darkness 2004 is made from charcoal from a forest fire in Florida which was started deliberately to contain a fire and got out of control, a paradox of good intentions and unintended outcomes.
There is a beautiful book on Cornelia Parker's work by Iwona Blazwick, Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, with a foreword by Yoko Ono, newly published by Thames and Hudson at £35.00