John Alexander Parks

Overview

John A. Parks, born 1952 in Leeds, England, is a painter who has shown widely in the US and England over the last thirty years. His work is represented in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Royal College of Art Collection, the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design and many private collections.  He received his M.A.(R.C.A.) in Painting from Royal College of Art, London, England (1973-76), and his B.A. in Fine Art from Hull College of Art, Hull, England (1970 – 73).

Biography

Beginning with his meticulous but lyrical realist paintings in the late seventies Parks has concentrated on themes of English life and the broader issue of the relationship between personal and national identity. A long series of delicately romantic paintings in the eighties explored the English obsession with the transformational properties of gardening and landscaping.  In the late eighties and nineties Parks shifted his attention to British public imagery where he applied a whimsical, playful and sometimes alarming painterly attack to undermine and decode some of the nation’s most preciously held icons.  ln recent years Parks has been using a finger painting technique – literally painting with his fingers – to explore the imagery that occupied his imagination as a child.  Paintings of trains, hunting scenes and monuments have recently been superseded my images of schoolyards and the pursuits of boyhood – cycling, exploring, fighting and camaraderie. “The recent work is all executed from memory,” says Parks. “And in using finger painting I’m using a childish method to explore childish things. For all that, these are far from childish paintings.  I’m amazed at the rich surfaces and evocative properties of the pictures I’m able to make this way. They are starting to feel like the very stuff of memory.  I’ve never been more excited about what I’m doing.” Parks is currently working on a series of Putti paintings.  “Ever since the Romans dreamed them up putti have accompanied many kinds of imagery.  Rediscovered by Renaissance painters, they appear in countless works throughout the centuries, cheerfully mirroring and often exaggerating grownup behavior. Having worked on narrative paintings for the last few years, I’ve recently been using putti because they give me the opportunity to explore human gestures and interactions in a way that is playful, sometimes bizarre and strangely universal.   Using them often feels absurd or wayward but the possibilities for invention, humor and insight into human behavior seem compelling.  Putti are also mysterious beings; in the end none of the painters who used them knew who or what they are.  Neither do I.”

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