The years following the Second World War saw the rise of a remarkable generation of British artists of whom Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and (in the light of current rather than contemporary opinion) Lucian Freud were only the most prominent. They were helped by a lively commercial and critical environment. Daily newspapers, the Sundays and the weekly and monthly reviews argued about painters and sculptors; the island was full of voices. A new generation of collectors followed the artists. This was critically important and remains so. Taste is followed rather than made by public galleries and collections. You have only to consider the career, and influence, of a collector like Charles Saatchi to get the point.

Over the past quarter-century the price of entry to the art market has gone up. The scene is noisier; there are more people in the game and as with publishing, or banking, or advertising, or manufacturing, markets have gone global. One effect has been that reviewers tend to wait until an artist’s reputation is quite established or the artist’s personality quite celebrated. You have only to consider the career of an artist like Damien Hirst to get the point. Very few newspapers and weeklies cover contemporary exhibitions in commercial galleries. Editors wait for the public blockbusters.

From time to time The London Magazine will start to correct this and cover, even if haphazardly, interesting work as it appears in selling exhibitions. Our deadlines and those of the galleries will differ but we will always indicate where work by the artists we feature may be seen or purchased.

Our first chosen artist is a painter, Vicken Parsons. She shows at the Alan Cristea gallery in Cork Street, W1. The gallery has issued a very fine hardbacked illustrated catalogue of a recent exhibition, to which she gave the title of Here. It has a monograph by Darian Leader. The paintings are small and intense. They interact beautifully with each other. If you installed just one in your room, however, you would want to surround it with empty space or move it about from time to time, like the beautiful object it is, in order to modify other spaces.

Leader describes an epiphany in this painter’s career. A shadow fell into her studio from outside. It soon disappeared. It left an indelible impression which she wanted to make delible, as it were. Light, space, fragility, evanescence; these are the ‘figures’ on a Parsons canvas. At first I wanted to file her work mentally among the British non-figurative artists of the 1950s I much admire and have myself collected. But I now think that this would be wrong: space is as real as the figures, or objects, you place within it. And every bit as mysterious or beautiful. The only painter Vicken Parsons recalls to my mind is the Italian master, Giorgio Morandi. He is a quiet master; a hedgehog not a fox. He refines what he does until it is done impossibly well and then starts over again in order to improve it. Vicken Parsons’ paintings are small and anything but noisy. Within the rigorous limits she sets hers is a talent without a ceiling.

– Grey Gowrie, May 2012

Untitled 2010 Oil on board 20.9 x 25cm
Untitled 2010 Oil on board
Untitled 2001 Oil on board 15.3 x 15.3cm

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