In a white box, four white plaster artefacts await attention. The accompanying A4 text occupies a physical space, the stack of paper an object in itself. In Cactus Gallery, James Parkinson’s ongoing exhibition Slower Volumes offers a cerebral experience, colourless and sublime. It requires a measure of calm contemplation and a willingness to engage thoughtfully with the objects and text presented. Parkinson presents something deceptively small that under close inspection speaks volumes.
This exhibition documents a few moments in time captured by liquid, set, hung, and now waiting to be studied. The eye may slip over Parkinson’s plaster casts and the walls and find no purchase. It’s difficult, frustrating. There is too much space, dizzying light; the bulky organic forms pinned to the wall are blindingly featureless. Glancing again, the eye may catch upon a fold, a shadow, the fabric remainder of the volume that has been cast.
Slower Volumes centres on translation. The viewer is asked to consider what is lost and what is gained through the translations that the artist presents. But it’s more than that. Plaster casting is a medium where the cast communicates something beyond the thing. The casts are more than a representation of an object, they are objects in themselves. Parkinson investigates the line between facsimile and abstract representation.
Each of the four volumes are markedly different, though they all represent aspects of a single object. The surfaces are pitted and patterned at the point of contact by absent canvas. They may be colourless, though no longer featureless. It may well be that the casts are unrealistic replications of the spaces that the original object inhabited, bringing new life to the inside of a bag. The authenticity of the medium is also questioned. How can this plaster offer a duplicate of the original when it’s hung in an inordinate position, posed in a most un-bag like way?
The accompanying text is an edited transcript of a conversation. The conversation holds together the theoretical threads of the exhibition by presenting an alternative, intangible understanding of the volumes on display. The artefacts are virtual reproductions of an everyday object, pressed and shaped with intention thus making a tangible artefact from an ephemeral interaction between liquid plaster and a (once) hollow volume. The text offers an insight into the process of making, an accompanying piece to the physical objects on display though the text is independent in its own right. The process of transcription echoes the process of casting, as both are a kind of translation.
Parkinson’s translation strips away the viewer’s understanding of empty space. It is a refreshing experience of joining dots, filling in details, and grasping at understanding what Parkinson is asking. It’s a marvel to find that the plaster is indeed coloured after all, by texture, and by thoughts.
Jon Ferguson is a student at the University of Liverpool.
Slower Volumes – James Parkinson
Cactus Gallery, Liverpool
On Display until 28 February 2016.
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