Miranda Parkes is a Christchurch painter and the 49th recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship. Her vibrant and eclectic works are held in a number of public collections – including the Sarjeant Gallery where she was their Tylee Cottage Artist in Residence in 2009 (AZ #66). Miranda talks of hectic mornings, Sea Salt and chocolate, and the importance of butter knives.
What does a typical day look like?
Typically, my day begins when my daughter wakes up about 8.30am. Through winter, we have been eating breakfast in my bed, because our big old house is far too cold to range free in. My daughter's favourite breakfast is eggs with toast soldiers, which she calls 'eggs with solt aargers'. This eating turns into reading several library books together and writing in my journal (if I'm lucky). Then there is a hectic rush to drop her to preschool remotely on time. I have to go to a cafe or for a walk next to the estuary to decompress, change gear and think some thoughts before I begin working. By the time I arrive at my studio there is a very unthreatening amount of time left – maybe 4 hours – before I have to leave again, so my work is always a luxurious pleasure. Unfortunately, there is never any time to do my GST.
What research do you do?
I am one of those people who considers everything in daily life to constitute research or fodder for art making. This can be tiresome for anyone who goes for a walk with me, as I am always stopping to take a photograph of a piece of hot pink balloon on the grey asphalt, or to video the plastic covering on a window, flapping in the air. Research specific to my current show, relationship status, was around language, dialogue and relationships. This involved watching a lot of Love Island Australia and taking note of the phrases the contestants used. Deeper things, like feelings, are also integral to my work, as making art is the most elegant tool I have available to process things that happen in my life.
What project are you working on now?
I am right now installing my exhibition relationship status at Jonathan Smart Gallery. At the heart of this exhibition is a series of small paintings/collages made by working in many layers over every image plate from an old book called Later Italian Painting. I love the irreverent process of carefully tearing out each page, then working with, against and over the existing image.
The original black-and-white plates from the book are beautifully printed using the old photogravure technique which makes for a dreamily smooth surface to work over. When I am done with each page, there remains a visual and conceptual dialogue with the work beneath. Even where the photogravure image is totally obliterated, the resulting work owes its life to it, because it is made in response to, or in relationship with. It’s a generative process for me that I really enjoy. There is a lot of fluoro colour, gold and silver foil, collage elements and studio detritus such as dried paint flakes in the final works. The next step is to reproduce these works and re-bind them as an artist's book. I made a second series, French Painting, then felt it was really a lot for one show, so that one will wait for the next!
What song pops into your mind at random intervals?
At the moment it is Sea Salt by the wonderful Amiria Grenell, from her 2015 album, Autumn. I'm very happy to surrender my psyche to this song and I recommend it.
When were you last incandescently happy?
Every day this week, listening to Sea Salt and eating chocolate at my studio, with all my gold and silver artwork around me catching the light and thinking of how lucky I am to be able to offer my work to the world (well, to Christchurch anyway).
What's the most indispensable item in your studio?
I have an old butter knife at my studio. Unrecognisable now as a kitchen implement, it is caked with fine layers of paint and glue, bent slightly at the tip. Its many uses include removing staples from stretcher bars, scraping excess paint from the sides of paint pots, opening tins and applying glue to strips of canvas. This knife has a particularly flat, fine tip, almost like a palette knife, but without the flexibility. Occasionally I peel back the accrual of paint to reveal the metal end in order to refresh it. I have tried other butter knives but they're never the same.
How does your work comment on social or political issues?
My work is not overtly political, although I think it is tending more in that direction. Because abstract painting is one of the main languages I speak in, I think my practice can sometimes be mistakenly taken to be less socially and politically motivated than other modes of art making. But of course, all work comes from the personal/social driving forces at its core, as an artist's values underscore their work. I have the intention that my work will offer a clear-minded, joyful and reflective space for others. In order to do this I employ my intuition and intelligence as a starting point with the result that the work is inherently political, as it is integral to a considered perspective on the world around me. Being 'abstract' means there is space for a dialogue to take place as the viewer brings their own positions to it.
Someone has just given you the perfect gift. What is it?
A show at MOMA, New York! When the flights resume of course.
All work appears courtesy of the artist and Jonathan Smart Gallery
sun in my mouth (exploded book: Motherwell) 2019. Acrylic, gold and silver foil, collage elements, varnish on book page, 230 x 247 mm
Je t'aime (exploded book: Motherwell) 2019. Acrylic, gold and silver foil, collage elements, varnish on book page, 230 x 247 mm
the golden hour, 2018, (Un)conditional I, The Physics Room (Aigantighe Gallery exchange). Gold and silver foil on perspex, golden pins, 1700 x 1700 mm
display table liners, 2017, the merrier, Hocken Collections, Dunedin. Hand dyed silk and cotton, 2 pieces approx 1600 x 1000 mm
the merrier 2017, installation shot with antibody banner, Hocken Collections, Dunedin
melancholia, 2018. Antoinette Godkin Gallery. Gold and silver foil and acrylic on board, 1200 x 2400 mm