Thursday, May 17, 2012

Meet Your Maker: Larry Parkinson

Larry Parkinson is a wonderful artist, a lovely chap and a stalwart of the Stockroom scene (if such a thing could be said after only 2 years!). His work has proven extremely popular here and it's easy to see why. It's got visual intensity; it crosses boundaries between print, painting, drawing and graphic design; and it tugs on elements of symbolic meaning that resonate with our contemporary lives. I recently had a chat with Larry to find out more about his current exhibition, Dressing up for the devil, and he generously divulged some of the ideas permeating the work ...

People were drawn to Larry's work at the opening, often spending a lot of time with each piece.
The rich layering reveals hidden secrets and spatial depth with extended viewing.

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So, Larry, 'Dressing up for the devil' is the title of your show - which evokes both a playfulness and a risk. Dressing up implies preparation for fun, but the devil is dangerous. Can you give a bit of insight into why you chose this name?

Well Kent, the playful aspect is a major element and it is a playful title. We all need to make sure our shoes have been polished and our hair is brushed (I will just wear a tie!) as we prepare ourselves for a willful destiny. It's more like a Breugel meets Johnny Cash album!

It is about you and an idea and the seduction of making and the moving from the personal to the publication - dressing up for the devil - and as you say, playfulness and risk.

Larry Parkinson, Imp (detail), 2012

The title also refers to the duality in the works, not exactly a good and evil morality battle but more a subtle physical line between two or more ideas, possibilities, existing in one work and the hierarchy of these. We do not make snap shots of our worlds but are always processing many layers of meaning.

So in this way the title is more poetic than literal.

You utilise a lot of erasure and stripping back in your painting process. What's the motivation for that technique?

This way of working serves my process in a couple of ways, one of which is about incubation and sometimes procrastination, having to prepare or find the boards and make layers of under-painting takes time, and I find this helps in the forming of ideas - I guess I am playing.

The influence of having made etchings and using a process of scraping to reveal the image or as a means of correction that exposes the history of the plate intrigues me, but I can just as easily be seduced by the different layers of paint when sanding my weatherboards before putting my contribution on top.  So it is this idea of covering and recovery that became the starting point for this technique. It's also hard to control the results, there is a certain physical resistance in the process, an unpredictability that I enjoy.

Of course this process produces a unique mark, that is quite different from the drawn or rendered and I really like how the two interact within an image. In this body of work the resulting mark has often been the element that sets the image, so I mean the colour or the shape reminded me of an object, a bit like a Rorschach thing.

Even though the process of erasing can be brutal to an extent, I'm not interested in making heroic statements or marks with power tools - but using it more of a reverse drawing technique. I like to interrupt the narrative of the image with this idea of erasing and stripping back until there is a new cohesion. It seems to be working at the moment - we'll see how this process evolves.

 Larry Parkinson, A mortal tale (detail), 2012

Could you tell us a bit about how you go about choosing the particular subjects that appear in your work? They have a very symbolic, almost iconic, feel about them.

The images or subjects in these works are very much like a catalyst and so in this way can create the thread through the works. This means rather than choosing a particular subject there is an evolution of an idea and concept. Thematically the work has been dealing with duality or a parallel possibility, the idea that one belief or activity could be masking another.

I suppose that I could choose to illustrate this in a more direct or concrete way but I feel the work should be seductive and act as a lure into the idea and become an ornament to this idea rather than just being didactic.

I have combined found images, some are a substitutes for the human form, like tools (sourced from hardware catalogues) that are designed to be used for extending the body like ladders, wheelbarrows, objects to be used in toiling, -  'idle hands makes the devil's work'. In this way they could be seen as symbolic - but played off with a decorative decoy of a halo of gold 'coins' does become almost iconic but slightly ironic too. 

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Big thanks to Larry for taking the time to chat about his work. It's so nice to hear all the research, all the ideas and all the thought that goes into the creation of these beautiful artworks. It reminds me of that feeling you get with books on bookshelves, that locked inside each cover is a whole world of imagination. What better way to adorn your world than with the power-packed wonder of art!

Dressing up for the devil runs until 3 June.