The Grid Project – Part Deux – Inspiration

The Grid Project – Part Deux – Inspiration

Inspiration in my work often comes from the most mundane things. Before visiting my brother in Maryland, I received a text from him with this picture:

My brother moved this television from  Florida to his new home and it was damaged on the way. He could still turn it on and off, but all he got were pixilated lines and roving colors across the screen. I told him not to throw it out until I saw it.

For three nights I photographed this screen using my Sony Mirrorless R7 camera, my iphone and my brother’s Canon.  I didn’t have a tripod with me, so my brother lent me his ancient one — the sort where you let eveything flop into place and then you don’t touch it for fear that it will fall over.

The screen was, in deed, crushed. You can see the damage in the upper part of the TV. Since the television was flashing and lines of color were moving across the screen, I wasn’t sure quite what I would capture in a photograph. I expected halos of light, blurry areas due to unstable tripod and shooting free hand. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would get anything.

I took hundreds of photos. Eight hundred, in fact. Each night I would go through them to see what might work and then used that as a guide as to what to photograph the next night.

As I looked at the photographs their connection to mid-Century Modernist painters of lines and grids was obvious. But as I have written elsewhere, each artist used the stripe differently. The subject, application, meaning and outcome were different in each case. You have Noland’s horizontal formalist stripes, Riley’s black and white op-art stripes, Barnett Newman’s “zips”, Gene Davis, Frank Stella, and Ellsworth Kelly, But I sensed something different in these photographs of the television screen, here the grid seems like a cross between Agnes Martin and Rothko.  The modulated light in the background appears to be like atmosphere or weather. It was moody and the stripes punctuate that mood. The photos felt spiritual to me, as though we could walk thorugh them into another world. I think that that feeling came, in part, because the light eminated from the television.

"Breath", 19 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

“Breath”, 19 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

When deciding which photographs to print, I always consider how the ink works. To me, the printer is another painting tool. There are things it can do well, such as creating a super dense black, and other things that do not work well in this medium. For example, today, while printing with Michael Williams, artist, former assistant to Ken Noland and my printer, I wanted to do a print that was predonimantly dark values on one side and white on the other. Printers don’t actually print white, White is created by the absense of ink — as in watercolors, white is the paper showing through. With so much white in this photo, it would just look like there was nothing there.

What felt like a thing is the original photograph, is nothing in the printed version. But other things, like an infinitely modulated gray background with precisely rendered colored lines looks great.

"Fields in Fog", 25 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

“Fields in Fog”, 25 inches x 34 inches, archival inkjet print, © Leslie Parke 2018

Returning to a Residency in France

Returning to a Residency in France

Leslie Parke - Vallauris - utility

Nine years ago I spent seven weeks as an artist-in-residence at AIR Vallauris, which is walking distance to the Mediterranean. One of the advantages of returning to a residency is that you already know where everything is; where to buy food, get your laundry done, and buy materials. You can hit the ground running.

When I first arrived in Vallauris I started photographing immediately. I knew that my eyes are freshest when I first land in a place and even after a day or two I can become visually immune to the environment.

I was looking for something very specific. I wanted my subjects to appear abstract, and I wanted them to have layered and visually ambiguous space.

That is not how things started for me in Vallauris. The first thing that caught my eye were the utility boxes that are inserted into the side of a building.

Leslie Parke Blue Box

I went from that to the basketball court, to the crumbling walls between buildings. Most of these photographs I won’t print. They are an exploration of the place, but don’t meet the criteria I am seeking in my work.

Leslie Parke Basketball Court

In the eight years since I had last visited Vallauris much had changed. Vallauris was known as a ceramic center in France bolstered by the years that Picasso spent there working at Madoura. It still has a great ceramic museum and Picasso’s Chapel, but many of the great ceramicists, such as Collet and Derval, have passed away, and most of the ceramic studios that popped up around town have closed. Now many of the stores that carried their work are also closed. And this, finally, is where I found my subject.

It didn’t coalesce right away. I took dozens of photographs of empty store windows until I found just the quality I was looking for.

 

Leslie Parke, "Golf Juan I", photograph, archival inkjet print on archival paper.

Leslie Parke, “Golf Juan I”, photograph, archival inkjet print on archival paper.