Cornelia Parker - lecture at Falmouth University , February 2014
The talk had a title 'truth to materials' to which the artist referred from time to time, whilst showing us images of her work, things chosen because she likes them, whereas she said she has produced plenty of work she would not show now.
Cornelia said, 'squashing things is my only expertise'. She works in many media, taking an interest in many things, from her famous exploded shed to interviewing Chomsky, to be seen on youtube.
|drawing by Mary Fletcher|
Some interesting responses came to the questions, which as usual at lectures were kept to rather a short time at the end but were the best part. Cornelia described being an artist as political and philosophical. She was keen on work for an anti - fracking campaign but often her political work was not clearly on one side of a fence as she hopes to have a wide appeal.
Her work at the V&A using squashed brass band instruments she saw as an intrusion of something working class into that environment but she did not say if the fact that the instruments were clapped out and ruined was part of what she meant to say.
Equally she mentioned that whereas Gordon Brown cherished the old cracked leather of the old chancellor's red leather case, George Osborne has had a brand new one made with 'fake distressed look' but she did not say if she found this apt for a Tory chancellor.
However, she admires the work of more overtly political artists like Bob and Roberta Smith and Jeremy Deller.
I always deplore the paucity of political work at the art college shows so hope this encourages more students to interest themselves in the here and now and taking a stand on important issues.
C.P.seemed to delight in paradox, such as finding a Bedouin family in Palestine who make crowns of thorns to be sold to Christians in Jerusalem.
I gathered her parents did not understand or encourage her work and that she is a lapsed Catholic.
Whilst showing a rorsach blot pattern Cornelia said they all look phallic, just as I was thinking of womb and vulva shapes.
Cornelia has not made drawings of things for years but takes photos which are a sort of sketchbook of references.
She is embarrassed to be a Royal Academician and uses her feelings if negative to put into her work, making a work using the many red dots next to the most popular summer show print of a bird and showing this, minus bird image, in the room where all the small works are hung close together.
As I have made two works about red dots and the questions people ask about the success of a show, I fell to thinking that many artists must have also done work on this theme and wondering how Cornelia Parker got her breaks into stardom, but was too slow to ask, fearing that no one really tells us that and that my burning envy of her success is futile.
The artist remarked that some students were bogged down by the amount of theory they learnt before they had even made much art and become accustomed to using their hands and producing ideas in quantity.
I liked her and her quirky work and was surprised to see she is only a few years younger than I am.
Cornelia Parker is apparently creatively open to using whatever she sees around her, such as casting spilt milk patterns between cobblestones, using cold cure rubber, or throwing a meteorite into a lake and putting up a notice about it, making photograms using the light of a match to illuminate the previous spent match, using snake venom and its antidote to make a drawing. The number of ideas was impressive and we should perhaps have asked if she does anything specific to engender them, although she did mention that residencies were useful spaces for new influences and time to ponder.
There is a new book out about her work by Ilona Blazwick and Yoko Ono, about £20..
Can an artist be successful who does not live in London, or does not wish to jet round the world to take up residencies and exhibiting opportunities?
Did Cornelia have to stick to the one idea about squashing things for a good while before she couldbe accepted as doing other stuff?
Does she survive financially by various means and would she have told us how?
A packed theatre made an attentive audience and I was glad to have been there.