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Largest exhibition of paintings by Vicken Parsons to date on view at Alan Cristea Gallery
Vicken Parsons, Untitled, 2016. Oil on board, 24.0 x 25.5 cm. Courtesy Vicken Parsons and Alan Cristea Gallery, London.

LONDON.- Alan Cristea Gallery presents the largest exhibition of paintings by Vicken Parsons to date. It will run until 7 January 2017 and is the gallery's second solo exhibition with the artist.

Best-known for her small scale paintings which evoke architectural space and elemental landscape, this exhibition comprises 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.

Vicken Parsons is a British artist who was born in 1957 and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. She has had solo exhibitions at Tate St Ives; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Christine König Galerie, Vienna; New Art Centre, Roche Court, Salisbury and Kristof De Clercq Gallery Ghent. She has taken part in group exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery, London; Tate Modern, London; the Royal Academy of Arts, London; the ICA, London; Southampton City Art Gallery; Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Foundling Museum, London and The Belvedere, Vienna. Her work is in a number of important UK public collections including Tate (currently six paintings are in Tate Britain’s display A Walk Through British Art); Arts Council Collection; Jerwood Foundation; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; and was most recently acquired by the Government Art Collection. She lives and works in London.

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