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Tom PARSONS
Looking at the Overlooked
25 September to 19 October 2013

In the foreword to Norman Bryson’s Looking at the Overlooked - which encompasses four essays on the genre of the still life, the following query is presented to the reader– “when the term [still life] is still alive and well, it makes sense not just to settle for the inherited discussion but to try to move that discussion into our own time and to ask what still life might mean, for us now.”

My work to date has been concerned with thinking around representational modes and the illusory space within the frame; however, taking Bryson’s question as an anchor point I have immersed myself in considering this particular representational genre, which is ubiquitous in both art and everyday contexts. I am interested in the act of reframing the banal, the everyday detritus, and the overlooked inanimate objects we frequently handle but rarely consider; and the shift that occurs when these objects are reframed, from being insignificant items - to significant signifiers.

A common motif within still life paintings of the 17th century - a peeled orange or citrus fruit with its peel arranged in a fine spiral, acted as a character of sorts standing in as a symbol or allegory for ‘a progression towards truth,’ a demonstration of the difference between appearances and reality, an unmasking of things. This seemed to me a pertinent link to ideas of representational modes at large. Through the work I aim to address the tensions that modes of representation provoke, between the original and the imitation – the real and the image of the real. In an era where images presenting themselves as reality saturate our daily lives it is harder to determine what, if anything, has a privileged relation to the real. What is true and what is false, or what is real and what isn’t - is increasingly harder to perceive.

The genre of the still life, which depicts objects of daily life, alludes to the real, to the unpretentious items that are common and familiar – yet through the act of representation the line between the signified and the signifier is blurred. The three still life paintings in the space aim to act in this way, where, while they appear as quite unassuming representations of studio objects and rubbish, the objects are in some way armed with greater significance than just that. Whether they were handled by or once belonged to a noteworthy artist who passed through the studio, or were items used in the production of other works, they are in some way both ordinary and significant at once.

I make reference to painters of still life through the use of video to test this question that Bryson posed. Through the uniting of dated tropes and new formats for viewing, my aim is to stir a tension by means of questioning where the truth lies inside the often illusory space of the frame.

Tom Parsons
September 2013





2013 exhibitions' calendar