J S Parker

J S PARKER, born 1944, Auckland; died 2017, Blenheim

John S Parker painted full-time from the time he was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship, University of Otago, in 1975, until the year of his death. Apart from some early landscapes and portraits, he always painted abstract works. His paintings are a reflection of his life’s experiences in that they record his responses to his natural surroundings and circumstances. His gift lies in his use of colour, and in the balance he achieves within each painting. Alongside nature, music is Parker’s other source of inspiration and his paintings can bring to mind the interweaving of melody and harmony. He has said that he seeks to extract the essence of the spirit of classical music, and to fix it in his work.

Parker’s large-scale ‘Sermon’ series paintings were the result of his reaching an ‘impasse’ in the 1980s, when he painted the void he felt. On regaining his optimism, he began producing the ‘Plain Song’ paintings, an on-going series which demonstrate his love of colour harmonies and his acute sense of balance between harmony and tension.

Parker is always concerned that the excitement of the process is delivered in his work, yet he believes many people prefer ‘orderly, tidy works which do not disrupt the spirit or soul’. His has been a quiet presence in New Zealand’s art scene, yet he attracted a steadily growing and devoted pool of buyers over the years. His style of painting has not been particularly ‘fashionable’ curatorially, but the strength of his work lies in the fact that he does not heed fashion, nor do his paintings depend on the context of New Zealand to be relevant. His work touches a universal chord, and those who buy them rarely part with them.

In 2002, Parker was awarded the ONZM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in recognition of his services to painting over the previous four decades.

The Diversion Gallery, Marlborough
Milford Galleries
Artis Gallery, Auckland

Retrospective exhibition at Millenium Art Gallery, Blenheim 2009/2010 and info on book on Parker’s paintings

Stations of the Cross (catalogue), Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, 1981.
‘New Zealand Drawings 1982’ (catalogue), Dunedin Public Art Gallery, 1982.
Art New Zealand 32 ‘Exhibitions-John Parker’, by Avenal McKinnon, Spring 1984.
New Zealand Painting – A Modern Perspective, by Elva Bett. Reed Methuen Publishers, Auckland, 1986.
Art New Zealand 67 ‘Plain Song Journey Through’, by Peter Simpson, 1993.
Contemporary New Zealand Art 2, by Elizabeth Caughey and John Gow. David Bateman Ltd, 2000.
The Food of Art: New Zealand Painters and Their Food, Keith Stewart. Craig Potton Publishing, 2000.
‘ J.S. Parker: Plain Song’, by Damian Skinner. Published by Millennium Public Art Gallery, Blenheim, 2009.

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