Cornelia Parker talk – Falmouth 25/2/15

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Cornelia Parker – FSA Professional Lecture – 25/2/15

Since discovering Cornelia Parker’s work a few years ago, I have become increasingly hooked and she has become one of my favourite artists. My work has become heavily inspired by her thought processes and her chosen aesthetic particularly her suspension pieces. I looked at her piece ‘Edge of England’ in my dissertation and I have been waiting for the opportunity to hear her speak about her work and when my friend told me about this talk I decided I must go!

Parker’s talk focused on her major solo exhibition which reopened the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester earlier this month. Click on this link to see information about the exhibition on the Whitworth Gallery website:

Parker took us through the exhibition which contains some of her most famous works and new works. To begin she talked about the drawing wall where drawings from throughout her career are displayed. Some being the ‘Red Hot Poker Drawings’ These are interesting to me as she is challenging what a drawing is. She is using an object to create the drawings and I find this idea of the trace left behind by the object extremely interesting. ‘Traces’ is a theme forming throughout my practice.

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I enjoyed hearing her talk about her interest in the small details such as cracks in a wall. Just like the borings in the rocks collected they are a sign of the objects past.  She notices these small details and makes them into her work. The cracks resemble in her words ‘abstract expressionist paintings’ and I like this effect, how one can question the original source of these paintings as they become abstracts and are non identifiable as a known object.

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She expressed how she enjoys playing with linguistic ideas. ‘Cloud Burst’ is named for effect, however as she revealed it is actually a bit of rust. She said how she is playing on the ‘Jerusalem syndrome’ where we look at stones and see the face of Jesus, it is abut seeing things in other things and this she prompts the viewer to do through her titling and use of language.

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Inhaling and exhaling has become in her words ‘quite a motif’ in her work. many of her pieces show her metaphorically killing an object and rebirthing it in another way. For example with one piece she dissolved a gun in acid so that it is a pile of rust and therefore precipitates the gun.

One of her new works that takes up a whole room in the Whitworth is ‘War Room’ which is a giant tent made out of poppy negatives from the poppy factory in Richmond. Each is an empty ‘poppy void’ that I feel really expresses the loss of life in war.

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She talked about her suspension works which is what I was hoping for. They make you feel disorientated which she expressed is a bit like vertigo. She said that in her work she is making something that’s in her peripheral vision in the mind into something more tangible. This is an example of her fears coming out within her work and her in a way trying to controlling her fear. For example the cliff fall that inspired her piece ‘Edge of England’. There is a fear surrounding nature because of it’s unpredictability and in this piece she suspends the fallen pieces of chalk as a means to try to control it.

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The ‘gun’ and ‘bullets’ has become an object that she has involved in many works. She has used bullets but used the bullet to create drawings therefore exploring the object and the anti object. The theme of positives and negatives is present throughout her practice also where she has used shavings from engravings. She often challenges what the object is and used the waste from the making process to form her piece and in a way she makes this become the object.

Finally Parker talked about the opening night of the exhibition. For this an event took place which all started from a tiny substance called graphine –  small part of graphite. Apparently graphine could be the answer to the future of energy. Parker worked with a scientist and challenged him to create this substance from a Turner or a Constable. To do this, he took flakes of graphite from these paintings. the next challenge was how would it be made visual as this substance is so tiny. He expressed that even a breath would cause a chemical reaction that he could harness to create a spark. their aim was to create this on a massive scale for the opening night. Parker harnessed the curiosity of this event and had a sign made that expressed that a meteor had fallen on the site. Meteors and space is another theme that I notice through some of her work especially the suspension pieces which create the aesthetic of floatation as if they are meteorites floating in space.

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After much anticipation and therefore a lot of pressure, the opening went of with a bang. Literally! See pic below:

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Parker was asked at the end how she creates work and the thought process behind it. She expressed how her work relies hugely on her intuitions. Another theme in her work is Archeology, the uncovering of something and the intuition that once you have found a bit of something, you know where to dig further. In her words “You have a hunch that something is there and you dig more”. This was the case with the poppies. She has been working with negative space for so long that she went by her intuition. She knew that where there were poppies in the store (paper ones made to be worn in remembrance) there must be a negative of this from the production process.

She was also asked does she ever stop thinking about creating her work and she said no as her work acts as a catalyst and is a way of looking at the world. She said to her art and creating work is a way of life therefore the thinking never stops.






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