Over the past decade, Erik Parker has forged a reputation as one of the most radical painters of his generation. His works – which veer from graffiti-inspired text compositions, garishly trippy portraiture, lurid ultra-pop still-lifes, to obsessively illustrated graphic fields – aren’t united by genre or style, but rather cohesively reflect Parker’s distinctively idiosyncratic sensibility. Influenced as much by outsider art and sub-cultural memes as by pop, surrealism, and early 20th c. abstraction, Parker describes his approach as ‘blue collar formalism’: his canvases epitomise a punk-ethos redress of art history, thoroughly infused with urban grit.
Featuring new works from his still-life and jungle series, Other Side Of Morning and Bermuda takes its cues from Parker’s childhood fascination with the Bermuda Triangle; a real life nether-zone of the bizarre and inexplicable. The canvases, each a chaotically balanced myriad of toxic-hued exotica, unsettle with the sense of skewed familiarity. With their homage references to Rousseau, Picasso, or Lichtenstein, the hallucinogenic landscapes and vases of radioactive flora brazenly stake claim on hallowed territory: the archetypal subjects reworked, reinvented, and authoritatively re-owned through Parker’s exhaustive process of drawing before they’re improvised afresh on canvas.
At the heart of Parker’s paintings is a drive towards innate semiotic instinct: the font fetishism of graffiti, the compositional rhythms of Matisse, or the op psychedelia of head shop posters all provide a model of ‘typography’ – a primal impetus of mark-making, gesture, and form as intuitive universal referents. Works such as Bermuda, a swarthy tropical night scene framed by a mass of lusciously venomous vines, can be conceived less as painted than written: each detail of its mandala-like patterning is individually rendered with calligraphic flourish, a unique script within the whole of an epic.
With his high-velocity palette, acid trip perspective, and flat screen graphics, Parker’s is an extreme take on painting, deceptively proffering pure visual aggression and sublimating beauty through the most contemplative and considered means: an intensive, whollistic, and extraordinarily ambitious devotion to visual craftsmanship and its possibilities of excess.
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