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Exhibition: 'After Parkinson'

A  contemporary sculptural response to the work of fashion photographer
Norman Parkinson 

Two specially commissioned busts
a Secret Society Banquet
until 2nd October 2016

Scroll to the end for text about the exhibition and REVIEWS

The Union Club 49-50 Greek Street, Soho London W1D 4EQ

Exhibition open to the public 24th September - 2nd October 2016
11am-8pm daily



About the two busts created for the
AFTER PARKINSON’ exhibition.
Large bust:  ‘Photographer’s Assistant’    
Limited edition of 20
Small bust:  ‘Photographer’                        
Open edition

When I was given access to the Norman Parkinson archive I was very surprised at how many of the photographs I recognized although I could never have put a photographer’s name to them.  This was the surest indicator that Parkinson had created some truly iconic images and it was interesting to work out – as I delved into the archive – exactly what had made those images unforgettable.  I felt instinctively that would be the key for me in choosing which photographs to reference in my sculptures.
Clothes are clothes, models are models but by applying a special kind of magic, Parkinson transformed the potentially mundane into the alluring, the exotic, the glamorous and sometimes the bizarre.   It struck me that one way he achieved this was through the backdrops he chose for his model shoots, sometimes using iconic architecture and often playing with scale - which is something I’ve done myself when creating my plaster busts.  Thus the Eiffel Tower or Empire State building, while setting a particular style and atmosphere, also introduce an interesting element of visual trickery, appearing either huge or miniature in relation to the model.  So it was a natural decision for me to incorporate some of the buildings and structures which Parkinson had chosen in my sculptures – hence the pyramid, sphinx, Eiffel Tower and New York skyscraper.
Improbable juxtaposition and simplicity are other elements which help make some Parkinson photographs iconic.  In deciding how to ‘dress’ my plaster busts I was drawn to outfits with strong and unusual sculptural shapes so Le Groux Soeurs hat jumped right out at me.  It was important to remember that my brief was to reference the actual photographs taken by Parkinson and not just his subject matter.  In the photograph of this fabulously extreme hat, it appears to sit asymmetrically on the model’s head because of how her neck is turned and the angle he shot from.  Echoing this compositional decision of his, I also placed my hat off centre – asymmetry again being a theme in my work.
In perusing his photographs and the films of Parkinson working, I noticed he was drawn to the telephone as a prop – as in the Jerry Hall photos.  Telephones – especially the pre-digital variety – are very simple, sculptural forms and their trailing spiral cords introduce a linear element across the picture plane which Parkinson obviously enjoyed. So a telephone receiver was a perfect way to reference the photos and to introduce an element of realism and narrative.  And as the ultimate Parkinson allusion it was imperative that one of the busts had a camera slung round her neck.

Every detail of the two plaster busts references a Parkinson photo. To make the busts I first create a sculpture using real materials and objects, then a silicone mould and finally a plaster cast.  It was quite some hunt tracking down the various objects I’d decided on; the Empire State I made from a mini-Lego kit; the sphinx was a fridge magnet bought in the British Museum; the phone was part of a vintage Fisher Price toy found on American Ebay;  the miniature SLR camera was on a key ring;  I couldn’t find a pyramid so I made one from folded paper.  The ‘costumes’ and headgear were constructed from an eclectic array of materials chosen for their texture and pattern aiming to replicate outfits in the photos.

The Parkinson archive introduced me to an inspirational collection of imagery which I’m sure I will continue referencing long after this exhibition has ended. 

Selvedge Magazine Blog
Tincture of Museum

 The show is a collaboration with the Norman Parkinson Archive & Cavaliero Finn

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