Tuesday, October 19, 2010

All hail the king: Larry Parkinson on 'Realm'.

Larry Parkinson’s latest show ‘Realm’ is on display now in Gallery I in Stockroom. Larry is an established artist who also works as a Visual Arts lecturer at Swinburne University TAFE.

In his solo shows, Larry likes to explores singular concepts and themes, that draw each piece together. They’re a joy to look at, revealing much humour, a seductive contemporary aesthetic and the ideas of a man whose heart very much belongs to this thing called art. His prints are in the very best sense of the word, “popular”. People enjoy spending time with them – and buying them too!

You might spy a crown or two in 'Realm', this show very much taking root from that bejeweled icon... Larry kindly took the time to answer a few questions about his work, and why 'the crown'. He gives us a deeper insight into his work and practise.

Stockroom: How many prints are in the latest show, and can you tell us a bit about how ‘Realm’ came about? And why you used the image of the 'crown' for your inspiration?

Larry Parkinson: There are 32 works in this exhibition and there 8 prints included, the others are mixed media on board.

The concept of the title Realm covers both the motif of the crown, its regal symbolism and all that this represents. But it is also as much about the idea of the physical and the imagined spaces in which we are in, like the personal realm and the universal realm… ‘Within the realms of possibility’, ‘within the realms of the imagination’ ‘earthly realms’ were concepts that related to the original thinking.

The crown image had been around for a while and it was the departure point of the last exhibition ‘Mantle’. My interest came from the ambiguity of the image. I mean it can be a serious image or an image used to validate importance or quality, or that the crown can ordain an individual with power. The irony and humour of the crown symbol and its references in society interest me too. As the work progressed the architecture of the crown became its own realm and I started to invent from this point. This can be seen in the work that uses the ‘dot’ to create a constellation of jewel-like patterns.

SR: How would you describe the work in this show?

LP: The work in this show is a product of discoveries through working and reworking images. It is a set of works that range from the iconic or ’graphic’ image such as a weathered sign, to a more decorative invention such as illustrated maps. This work generally ‘looks’ different from other recent work but for me it has the same intent of communicating a connection/relationship between the idea, the work and the viewer.

SR: Is it true you started making the work for this show in September? That's a pretty prolific, swift effort! How many hours a week were you working on getting the show ready?

LP: I started work on this exhibition around the last week in August just after the confirmation of the dates with Jason (one of the gallery directors at Stockroom). I did have to work consistently from that point. I am not sure of how many hours it took all; I can remember was cold wet nights in the studio! It rained so much, I know that, and this was a challenge. I needed to work outside because this work uses a ‘lost and found’ process, a process that relies on painting surfaces and then sanding back into them and reworking. I often have a longer incubation time and a shorter making time. It all seemed to work out.

SR: And also the works on paper with dots.. They are quite different from the rest of the work in the show. Can you please give us some insight into those pieces?

LP: These work are relief prints printed off Lino blocks. They were actually the start of the ideas, that is, the first works in the series. Traditionally lino is carved away to develop positive and negative areas. I tried a process of mechanically putting different size holes in the lino. The effect I wanted was a constellation based on the loose shape or frame of the crown and the placement of jewels. I was happy with them.

SR: What kinds of reactions do you hope the audience has to your work in Realm?

LP: I hope that they feel they would like to spend time with the work, letting the subtleties of the images and the surfaces reveal themselves.

SR: Can you give us further of an insight into your artistic 'process'? From start (ideas, sketches etc) to finish or each print?

LP: The artistic process usually starts well before the making. I usually start collecting bits and pieces, like images that interest me from various sources: I like to make small rough collages and drawings and try to imagine how this work may look.

As an example this group of work started by preparing over 10 boards and trialing different ways of working across them. They all have a number of images layered under them. I did not complete each work individually, but moved from ‘canvas’ to ‘canvas’ and back until the feel of the work started to reveal itself. Then I worked on the images to completion.

SR: You work as a lecturer in printmaking at Swinburne, and your last show at Wolf At The Door was a bit of a return for you to exhibiting after a small break.. What has that experience been like for you and where are you headed next?

LP: I have not really stopped making work since leaving art school in the 80s and continued exhibiting but the more recent solo exhibitions have been great for me. I have enjoyed the more-focused body of work, which is different than small group curated shows.

I have been thinking about what will come next but have not formalised any idea yet. I need a little space to evaluate this body of work and whether there is a natural progression or a departure – so stay tuned! I will continue to make work.

SR: What do you love about being an artist, in particular a printmaker?

LP: I love the way that making art leads you to places that you did not expect to go, I mean imagination and invention, I love that. Printmaking for me means making, and I love to make.

SR: Whose work inspires you?

LP: I started to make a list it, and it became a little like the dilemma of a wedding invitation list! “Oh I can’t leave Rauschenberg off, and wait, all the early collage artists like Hoch and Hausmann need to be there and of course Goya and Bruegel need to sit together next to Polke and Dine..!”

I am always looking at other artist’s work, both locally and internationally, contemporary and historically, and inspiration comes out of encounters with the ideas they present.

SR: What's the best compliment anyone has paid you about your work?

LP: “I get that that is funny."

SR: What's your next project - is there another show ‘on the boil’?

LP: Simmering not boiling… I am thinking about a series of smaller works on paper, next.

View photos from the 'Realm' opening on Stockroom's Facebook.

Words: Megan Spencer. Many thanks to Larry Parkinson for the interview.