Florence Trust  2002

 

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'Every voyage can be said to involve a re-siting of boundaries.  The travelling self is here both the self that moves physically from one place to another...and the self that embarks on an undetermined journeying practice, having constantly to negotiate between home and abroad, native culture and adopted culture... between a here a there and an elsewhere.'
Trinh T. Minh-ha, 'Other Than Myself/My Other Self', from Traveller's Tales, Routledge 1994.

Simon Parish keeps travelling on returning home.  By recreating photographs taken in Asia he exposes another layer of the traveller's experience: how memory forges the 'other' and re-inserts it into the familiar territory of home.  We travel to re-discover ourselves as subjects at home.  We leave the beaten track, to tread where indigenous people tread, to temporarily try to inhabit their lives.  The mundane architecture of space plays out differently when its context is unfamiliar.  Telephone wires above a service station in Vietnam construct a composition that echoes something known.  Electric cables on a Bangkok street suggest modernity but are hung in a new pattern the eye seeks to translate.  Global references like Texaco and Siemens heralds an international language which provides a locating hook and salve for the gaze.

In many ways, Parish's striking paintings and drawings are about the problematics of being a tourist.  What is remarkable to him are not the designated 'sights', but the everyday: the colourless sky over a motorway, the sense of waiting at a roadside.  He's concerned with systems of connectedness, symptoms of communication: how a walkway is constructed on the face of a mountain; the narrative of tyre tracks on a forecourt; how to regenerate the palette of another place and hence evoke the feelings the traveller felt, the mood, smells and discomfort a journey entails.

But his work is also about the tradition of landscape: from the Romanticism of Caspar David Friedrich to the constructed scenes of Jeff Wall.  How does the figurative painter inch into the space left open by photography?  How does painting render the depth of a scene without nostalgia, without a veracity of emotional experience?  How does Parish communicate his longing for home in the sites of not belonging?

'The paintings and drawings represent my changing relationship to photography.  Spatial connections are more vivid when you travel.  If photography tends to flatten that out, then painting puts it back.'

Parish ably resolves the tension between the desire for a photo-realist rendering of place and letting the paint break out of that tradition to edge into something less clearly defined and more visually malleable.  He contests the fact that photographs are seen as an objective rendering of otherness and allows us to see how much the foreigness of place is shaped by who the witness is and the means they use to express their experience.  In placing us as spectators in front of his after-images of otherness, Parish gives us that nice-not-nice sensation of not quite knowing who we are.  He makes us travel outside ourselves and see how we look, anew.

Cherry Smyth