Best-known for her small scale paintings which evoke architectural space and elemental landscape, this exhibition will comprise several groups of new works including her most recent paintings which use a broken grid structure as part of a matrix to create an elusive sense of depth, using layering rather than perspective. Within a careful confusion of planes, lines and marks, the eye of the viewer is engaged in continuous movement between an illusory deep space and the picture plane. It is not clear what is near and what is far, where the source of light is and what is
reflection, illusion and reality.
The title of the show, IRIS, is an inversion of previous exhibition titles used by Parsons which have referenced imagery within the works themselves. The word ‘iris’, which derives from the Greek word for rainbow, refers to the act of looking itself. As the eye works to understand the layers and depths of Parsons’ work, the paintings become both a window out to the world, and a doorway for light and colour to enter. Whilst previously dominated by a palette of subtle greys and blues, Parsons introduces strong blues and fiery reds and oranges to some of her paintings. In several of these works Parsons gives eminence to one colour, exploring within this a range of tones.
“Parsons is keenly interested in early modern paintings that combine strong colour fields with frank exposure both of drawn or painted lines and of the artist’s workings before a picture’s final stage was achieved.” says Richard Morphet in his text for the exhibition catalogue which discusses Mondrian’s Composition with Yellow (unfinished) (c.1934) and Matisse’s View of Notre Dame (1914) as examples of paintings which Parsons feels resonate with her current work. Morphet goes further to describe some similarities in the interiors painted by Francis Bacon, his visceral use of paint and the sense of exposure of inner experience which are all at play in Parsons’ work. He also suggests that there is a shared depth of emotion which artists such as Howard Hodgkin and Cy Twombly invest in their paintings.
The ‘charged spaces’ Parsons creates in her paintings are also played out in her sculptures. The steel blocks, painted in similar colours to her paintings, cast shadows and reflections on to their horizontal base quietly animating the space they occupy. “Parsons’ paintings and sculptures are small and outwardly unassuming. More significantly, however, they are resilient and dynamic, speak strongly to other artists and hold their own with confidence amid the complex multiplicity of form and approach in art today.” comments Morphet.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an introduction entitled CHARGED SPACES by Richard Morphet, former Keeper of the Modern Collection at the Tate Gallery.