The Print Project and It’s Aftermath

The Print Project and It’s Aftermath

Several years ago I decided that I wanted to do a set of lithographs based on a painting I did of an almond tree.  Having never made a lithograph before I thought I’d share the process with you and get your input along the way.

I made 4-plate lithograph, that I printed in different colors to represent different times of the day.

Leslie Parke, Almond Tree MorningAlmond Tree Biot, France, AfternoonAlmond Tree Biot France - Evening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I took the separations and scanned them and made a digital version of the lithograph. With 4-scans, I was able to make each scan a different color. Being the art history nerd that I am I used this as an opportunity to explore the palettes used in some of my favorite paintings by some of my favorite artists — Van Gogh, Gerhard Richter and William Nicholson.

 

My image coming out of the printer.

Leslie Parke, Almond Tree New Version

The digital print being turned back into a painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then used the digital rendering to inspire new paintings on canvas. In this process, it became clear that I didn’t just want to change the palette, I wanted to change everything about how I applied the paiint. I poured paint, and dripped it, I flung it and scaped it. I used brushes, and squeegees, and rags, and paint sticks, palette knives and my fingers. I used oil paint, enamel paint, metallic paint and highway glass.

What remained was as abstract image that was based in nature and had a certain quality of light.

And even then, I was not quite finished, I also went back to some of the lithographs and painted on them to further enhance the image.

This project started in 2008 and it isn’t quite finished. When people ask me how long it takes me to do a painting, I assume they are asking how long it takes to apply the paint — not how long it takes to conceive an idea, nurture it, modify it, deconstruct it and reinvent it.

This process is essential to me. It is not repeating an image, it is studying, investigating, and dissecting an image. And until I have discovered everything I can, I keep working on it.

“Almond Tree Morning”, 60 inches x 70 inches, oil, enamel and metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2015

 

"Tree in Twilight", 67 inches x 96 inches, oil, enamel, metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2015

“Tree in Twilight”, 67 inches x 96 inches, oil, enamel, metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2015

 

"Almond Tree - Light Through Rain", 72 inches x 96 inches, 4-parts,oil, enamel and metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2017

“Almond Tree – Light Through Rain”, 72 inches x 96 inches, 4- parts, oil, enamel and metallic paint on canvas, © Leslie Parke 2017

But now something new is bubbling up. And again it is something I don’t quite know how to go about. So, I thought this would be a good time to share my journey with you. I have a vague idea where I want to go with the new work, but no idea how I am going to get there. If you have any ideas, feel free to chime in. The new project is called The Grid Project and I’ll explain it to you in my next post.

Artist Collaborations: New Technology Makes Collaboration a Breeze

Artist Collaborations: New Technology Makes Collaboration a Breeze

My First Collaboration with Composer Henry Brant

Artist collaboratives can be a tricky business, but try doing it with neither the internet or even a computer. Years ago I collaborated with the brilliant, contemporary composer Henry Brant on a piece called “Inside Track“, which was played at the Holland Festival. My part in it was that I made slides of dozens of paintings on paper that were displayed on four projectors, which were “played” by two percussionists. Since the piece was performed in Holland, I never got to see it.

Let’s break down that last sentence. “I made dozens of slides.” We are talking about real slides, physical slides; slides that take a week to process in a film lab; slides made out of film and cardboard, that can’t be cropped, but rather have to be taped with physical tape to block out anything you don’t want the viewer to see. “The slides were ‘played’ on four projectors”; yes,  these were slide projectors, all mechanical, nothing electronic about them. They were noisy, had different lenses, could overheat and burn the slide. Or if you used the projection long enough, the slide just faded or turned brown. The button to forward the slides was not always reliable, nor was it easy to control the speed of the advancement.  The percussionists must have been very talented.

The New Artist Collaboration with Composer Thomas Oboe Lee

Recently the Boston composer Thomas Oboe Lee asked me to collaborate with him. He made two music videos using my paintings. In this case, I uploaded the images to dropbox, he downloaded them to his computer and edited them to his music.  By that night I received the video in an email and we both posted it to “the world” on Youtube and Facebook.

Here are the three videos:

The Aurora Borealis in a Zip Lock Bag — Essay about Leslie Parke’s New Paintings by Christopher Millis

Little do I remember of the astronomy lecture I attended twenty some years ago on a warm summer night in an observatory on what may be the last densely wooded tract of land in Cambridge. What I do remember is that the lecture put me in a kind of swoon. For the first time in my life, science and poetry became one. Somehow a talk on chaos theory and its relation to the order of the universe – randomness as the predictable and necessary precursor to design – had the heft and elegance and perspicacity of a poem you want to memorize or a painting you don’t want to leave.

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Leslie Parke, “Road Work”, 56 inches x 43.5 inches, oil on canvas, 2014. Photo Credit: Jon Barber

 

Leslie Parke’s paintings live at the same intersection where patterns court chaos, abstraction approaches the figurative and stasis hovers on the cusp of implosion. Her paintings are charged by contradictions: impersonal grids softened by sunlight; watery washes with metallic spikes; a cathedral of squiggles above a perfectly triangular black hole; the aurora borealis in a zip lock bag.

Leslie-Parke-Silo

Leslie Parke, “Silo”, 46 inches x 96 inches, oil on canvas, 2014.

 

But even contradictions are connected by themes, and what’s most striking across these disparate, spirited works is their relentless energy. This is a painter who thrashes in her sleep. And it is not merely high-powered kinesis that comes through so much as the integration of movement, color and form. It is no coincidence that the lines of “Silo” shift from vertical on the left half of the diptych to horizontal on the right; those same lines correspond with the play of light – muted to the left, increasingly luminous as the eye moves right. For all that it initially appears purely cerebral – the meticulous study of an industrial grid – the painting as a whole achieves the thrilling solace of a sunrise.

 

As with many artists at their performance peaks, Parke’s recent paintings seem deceptively effortless. They’re not. Go back to them; they have a lot to say.

Christopher Millis

Cambridge, MA

Christopher Millis’ criticism has appeared extensively in such publications as Art News, Artspeak, The Black American and The Boston Phoenix as well as on National Public Radio. He is the former editor of artsMEDIA Magazine in Boston.

Christopher Millis‘s writing has been published, produced and broadcast widely in the United States and Europe for the last twenty years. He has authored three books of poetry: The Handsome Shackles (2002,) Impossible Mirrors (1994,) and The Diary of the Delphic Oracle (1991,) and his poems have been featured in numerous magazines and anthologies. In 1994, his translations of the Triestine poet Umberto Saba appeared as The Dark of the Sun (University Press of America,) and the first of his acclaimed translations of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, “Requiem for Mohammed Al-Dura,” was published in The London Review of Books in 2000. His translation of Darwish’s “I Remember al-Sayyab” appeared in 2004 in The London Review of Books, The Daily Star, and The International Herald Tribune.

In 1979, Millis was commissioned by the Theater of the Open Eye in New York to write the libretto for Jean Erdman‘s dance opera The Shining House, a collaboration with Michael Czajkowski, Paul Jenkins and Ralph Lee. The Shining House established itself as part of the repertoire of Jean Erdman and Joseph Campbell’s Theater of The Open Eye with productions until 1984. The following year, Poems for the End of the World (1985,) choreographed by June Anderson, appeared at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio. Millis collaborated with Anderson and David Leisner on The Magnetic Properties of Moonlight at New York ‘s Dance Theater Workshop in 1986.

Millis’s one-man autobiographical play Garbage Boy, directed by Ashley Lieberman, premiered to critical acclaim in Cambridge Mass. in 2004 and was included in the 2006 New York International Fringe Festival

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Everything Is Real — New Paintings by Leslie Parke

Parke-Wrapped Blue

Leslie Parke, “Wrapped Blue”, 40 inches x 72 inches, oil on canvas, 2014. Photo credit: Jon Barber

EVERYTHING IS REAL is a group of paintings that are both abstract and representational. Each image in the series exists in the real world – an old board of insulation, an industrial garage door, a silo and corncrib, a track in the mud and wrapped cargo on pallets. At the same time, each has been composed to accentuate the inherently abstract qualities of the reflective surfaces and their interplay with light.

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Leslie Parke, “Silo”, 46 inches x 96 inches, oil on canvas, 2014. Photo credit: Jon Barber

I started my career as an abstract painter, sometimes making non-objective images and at others deconstructing the work of earlier masters, such as Ingres, Matisse and Giotto. Then in the 1990s I received a grant to spend half a year at the Claude Monet Foundation in Giverny, where I had a studio and 24 hour access to the Monet’s garden. At first, I looked for anything abstract; the structure, the color — but in the end, I was seduced by the light. Since that time, I have been in search of the subject matter that would resonate best with this full range of interests. I have painted many things from nature in the past, and even some traditional still lifes, but I’ve never completely related to those traditional genres. It wasn’t until I stumbled onto a waterfront dock piled high with pallets of cargo wrapped in plastic that I felt I’d finally found my subject. This shiny, transparent, and translucent stuff, which reflected light and held water bubbles from the rain, had all the qualities I was searching for. The subject is completely abstract, and yet has a surface as complex and difficult to paint as one of Ingres’ satin dresses.

Leslie Parke. “Leaning Insulation”, 60 inches x 40 inches, oil on canvas, 2014. Photo Credit: Jon Barber

At last, all the elements I’ve worked on separately over the years have come together in these new paintings and I can see a way forward. Everything is real; every crease exists in the object, every reflection.

 

And yet . . .

 

 

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Living in Monet’s Giverny

Living in Monet’s Giverny

Travel is an important part of my painting life, but not always in the ways expected.

What connects meeting Robert Smithson in New Mexico two weeks before he died, Tony Caro in his London studio, and Henry Moore at Perry Green, or having keys to Monet’s gardens, or painting on an archipelago in Sweden? 

For me, the connection  is meeting artists in the environment in which they work.  I get a sense of their connection to the place, and its history. As well as, learning what other artists who surrounded them. Ultimately ,I connect all that to who I am as an artist,  both in the moment and as these experiences work on me over time.

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My Path to Monet and Giverny

There are ten years between when I picked up a book of black and white photos of Monet’s gardens in a bookstore in London and when I spent five months as an artist in residence at his gardens in Giverny.

When I found the book, the gardens hadn’t even been restored yet, nor were they open to the public.  But that book drove me to see Monet’s Waterlilies at the L’Orangerie in Paris, where they are mounted on curved walls in two oval galleries.

orangerie

It is hard to imagine now, but until the 1970s the late work of Monet, which consisted almost entirely of the waterlilies, were not generally appreciated.

It wasn’t until a bright light was shown on the work of the Abstract Expressionists:  Pollock, de Kooning, Kline and Rothko, that these paintings by Monet gained new significance. Monet’s broad and expressive brush-work, which seemed to carry more feeling than content, was seen as prescient of the work of the Abstract Expressionists. It was suddenly relevant again.

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Experiencing Monet’s gardens as he had.

Spending five months with unfettered access to his gardens and surroundings allowed me to see for myself what, exactly, Monet was extracting from his gardens and what he was making up.

As it turns out, he made up precious little.  To experience the garden in real time, made it possible for me to see what he was up against — what the weather conditions were; how the light changed day to day and hour to hour. It was a great privilege to have this time to understand more intimately what he painted and the challenges he faced.

What surprised me, is how precise the information is in his paintings, even with the ones most loosely painted.

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Being in Giverny completely changed my own work.

Before Giverny, I made paintings based on images from Giotto, Ingres and Matisse. After Giverny, I started to paint representationally and, not surprisingly, I searched for ways to imbue my work with light.  What may be less obvious about the effects of that experience on me, is that it took me more than ten years to reconcile my abstract/conceptual longings with painting representationally.

Leslie Parke, "October Light", oil on canvas. Painting of waterlilies in Monet's pond in Giverny.

Leslie Parke, “October Light”, oil on canvas.

My point is that through sharing Monet’s space over a long period of time, I not only gained insight into Monet, but I was moved and influenced in ways I never anticipated.

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