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APRIL FOOL (spoken by the artistbefore the exclusive screening of
Cuba 1991; April Fool?, Eight Club, Bank, London, 2011)

"Damien Hirst said something which made me sit up straight and go "Hah!".
He said "Painting is a very, it's an amazing thing. I've always, I used to,
I tried, when I was young I tried to, I started trying, I used to try and paint.
I really wanted to be a painter but then I could never, it was very difficult,
facing your embarassment or your inabilities. You've got to go through a period
where your paintings don't look very good, to get anywhere that was good and
I never went through that period. So I do, I admire painters."
(see BBC Newsnight Review, 1.6.2007)

I'd say the key to overcoming the difficulty of painting, with the essential
prop of close family and a suggestion of a premeditated composition,
is to paint with immediacy.

You cannot fake immediacy. You cannot fake subjectivity. Poet Seamus Heaney
talked about ideas quicksilvering along the nerves whereby you go from
'me'ness to 'it'ness. Poets and painters share this drive or obsession. Heaney
called it affliction. It takes years of practice with little or no reward .
Many tens of 1000's of hours before you master it.
That's the period of little reward which Hirst alluded to and if you are
afflicted like me, then by the lights that guide you as an artist
you're either serious or not.  For me the lights of Cuba had atavistic echoes
of a journey to an egalitarian America, which was made by
my radical great-grandfather Charles Trevelyan in 1898.

In the Socialism or Death Havana of 1991 I worked alongside poets and artists
in a screen print workshop.  A highlight was Rafael Alberti's visit.
Before he arrived we went to the 'malecon' (sea-wall, above), as you do.
A crowd was gathering. Then a corpse was being lifted out of the sea,
symbolic of their doomed frustration and my first sight of death,
but captured on super 8 film. The significance of
what is not there played out in a poem called Cuba. So here is a place only
briefly accessible, where the charge is running and the instinctive brushstrokes
have an energy that change us. Elsewhere, the tide has gone out so far that
an eel thrashes away when I flip that muddied metal lid
with my toe. The deeper we go the more primordial the encounter.

Seeing my own children's first drawings confirmed something for me
about immediacy. Early people begin with uncontrolled, natural impulses;
scribbles, spirals, waves and dots. Then come the signs with which we build
our world. With the circle "the child draws the container to express the
contents." (Olivier Marc, 1972), an expression of yearning for their mother's
womb perhaps, like our ancestors had for the cave. The doors and elaborate
spiral-latticed rejas (window grills) of Old Havana define the change from
interior to exterior. Those spirals particularly, like the dancing Cubans
come May 1st and also my figures in 'Flux' on the Thames foreshore,
bring levity out of gravity.

There is an uncontrolled quality in the bare silky muslin panels I start with
that you cannot see on a computer screen and it challenges me every time
I step into the studio. I feel envious of the immediacy they achieve on their
own.  I don't think painting is any easier now but I am determined to develop
like an Ahab chasing the absolute in the existential depths."


 

Extract from True Vision speech given after the Trevelyan College
Graduates' Dinner, Durham University, 2012

"Later I shall make as dignified an exit as possible and go back to the sanctuary
of my spectacular studio at Wallington tonight; something I had not even
dreamt of doing a year ago. True vision is what we need when we set out
to achieve impossible ambition, symbolised in recent paintings by the early
flying-boats piloted by my great-uncle
Jack. The intense perception of figures
in my head, valued for their aesthetic quality are very different from
the numbers counted in and out of my brother's bursar's purse.
It is an experience much like in a dream.

There are irrational details in a dream that give a true quality. Indeed,
I heard there was a young man who had been visiting a forgotten cave
full of paintings from pre-history but the power of the dreams he was
having made him wary of returning. Our ancestral selves dreamt too
and moreover would be struck by symbolism; in rocks, rivers, trees,
in animals and paintings. Remembered dreams have great power,
like being struck by a big wave because there is a focus and truth there.
In these rare moments we recognize, understand and feel familiar
about an experience that was mysterious.

We see our feelings. Sentiment is present. This 'presentimentation'
is true vision which we need if setting out to achieve impossible ambition.
What does this feeling look like as it breaks over us? I said like a wave,
without end. Like an arch or an arc because with an arc there is still
something incomplete. Endless time, like a swing back and forth,
providing a context for light as it travels 186,000 miles every second.
Blue light bounces beautifully out there in those oceans of living thoughts
(as my great-uncle George would say) and the haphazard blue/grey surfaces
I now use suggest marks which are either measured darks or poetic lights.

El Greco spied an inner light, sitting in his shuttered studio while outside
Toledo throbbed under the hot sun. We need somehow to go beyond the self
and by drawing on the endless arc I focus on my dream, paying homage
to
Velazquez, Turner, Barnet Newman and Bacon whose paintings are very
different but whose ambition to achieve the impossible is shared."

 

 

Andrew Halls,King’s College School, Wimbledon, 2012.

Jonathan Parker is an old boy of the school where I am now Head Master:

It has been very exciting for King’s to form a link with Jonathan, who has painted 
both landscapes and portraits for us in the last few years. Jonathan’s work is
outstanding. He is a brilliant portraitist, capturing character and telling
gesture or posture in a most natural and beautiful style. Thankfully, in my view,
his portraits have a gentle fineness about them that allows the sitter’s
character to be ‘released’ in the paint. Too often school portraits can seem
lifeless, shiny and made-to-order photographic equivalents. Jonathan’s
work is too personal, too felt for this ever to be the case.

 

His landscape work suggest within a single canvas the depth of time animated
with the scene he paints. Jonathan Parker uses a palette that suggests the scene
is painted with traces of the natural elements of which it is composed. The silky
and infinitely varied greys and blacks of Thames silt and mud, the warmer,
half-glow of old brick, the pale luminescence of sky and air, all delicately
fuse in paintings that somehow convey the organic, historic and elemental
identity of the buildings or landscapes he portrays.

 

 


 

James Hamilton, 2010


Jonathan Parker paints the river and low tidal foreshore with affection,

understanding and the eye of a waterman. As Turner did, he patrols the
muddy reaches of the Thames, observant of movement and reflections,
and moment-by-moment changes of light. But he pushes his subject further
than his eyes can see: a cow wanders onto the bank and sits down to chew
cud, a palm tree appears in front of the Houses of Parliament, and snowy
Primrose Hill [??] pops up all over the place, echoing in its form the Millennium
Dome. And is that a troupe of dancing oarsmen entering stage right, beside
the remains of a washed-up whale?

 

Now at the beginnings of his mid-career, Parker seems to be one of the artists
we have been waiting around for: not one of your infant prodigies, breaking
into focus straight from art school, but one chastened by early success,
long-steeped in the lower Thames landscape, and brushed by a flight of exotics.
Parker has lived in Barcelona, Havana, Manhattan and in his family’s great house,
Wallington, Northumberland, so the breadth of imagery that has passed through
his mind is rich and complex. Not least in all this as background is his cousin
Julian Trevelyan’s manic surrealism; but Parker eschews surrealism, instead in
his symbolism being restrained, subdued, even touchingly suburban, all tending
towards making the familiar mysterious.

 

A memory of Parker’s (ancestral) uncle the historian G.M.Trevelyan drifts into
one of the paintings like a memory that Parker, born 1968, never had.
G.B.Shaw materialises in another, and an Indian soldier, a subject in a coming
series of figure paintings, is a stranger on the shore. Exploring new routes is
Parker’s challenge; clearing them his purpose.