Sunday 2 February 2020

Cornelia Parker

Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon OBE. Edward Snowdon. Germaine Greer. Gary. Julian Assange. Jarvis Cocker. Jeanette Winterson. Jimmy. The Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke QC MP. Jon Snow.

It's not often, Dear Reader, that you might encounter such an assortment of personages in the one paragraph. Nor, you would imagine, involved in a common project. But they nestle amongst the credit roll of over 200 law-makers, -breakers and -commentators who contributed to a fifteen-metre long embroidered representation of the Magna Carta's Wikipedia page. (Jon Snow, I'm guessing, is someone's nom de needlepoint.) Magna Carta plus Wikipedia plus Embroidery can only equal one thing: Yes, the brilliant and inventive British artist Cornelia Parker is having an exhibition in Sydney.

Photo detail of artwork by Cornelia Parker, Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2015, exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Topside detail
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015

Photo detail of reflected underside of Cornelia Parker artwork "Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015" exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Underside detail - in Reflection
Magna Carta (an Embroidery), 2015
Photo detail of Cornelia Parker artwork, Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2015 exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Wikipedia Images Captured in Stitch
Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015

Photo detail of Cornelia Parker artwork, Magna Carta (An Embroidery), 2015, exhibited at MCA Sydney, 2019
Gilt Thread to Enliven the Black, White & Wiki-Blue
Magna Carter (An Embroidery), 2016

Law-breakers in HM Prisons made further contributions in another series of hand embroidered works, dictionary definitions of oppositional words superimposed on one another in mirrored writing: Inside, Outside 2018; Win, Lose 2019; Pretty, Ugly 2019; Light, Dark 2015, War, Peace 2015 and:

Photo image of Cornelia Parker artwork "Love, Hate 2015", exhibited at the MCA, Sydney, 2019
Collins Dictionary Mined for Art
Love, Hate 2015

Opposing states and unexpected transformations, key to Cornelia Parker's work, were explored in this career-spanning exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The space was filled with rooms of sculpture and installation, and, for me, the unexpected delight of embroidery. It's extremely satisfying to see one's, ahem, old-fashioned interests taken to novel and modern heights by such an interesting artist. A reminder for me that there is fun to be had by taking hobbies off-piste! 

And I had a bonus reminder that my general News Blackout has been worth it when you see this assemblage of news headlines drawn by 5-year olds on a blackboard. I know, it's just gibberish!

Photo of Cornelia Parker artwork "News at Five (Terror-ble Joke) 2017" exhibited at the MCA Sydney,2019
Editorial Pun Alert!
News at Five (Terror-ble Joke), 2017

Some of the artworks proved rather tricky to photograph but were so very conceptually interesting. My conventionality and often-times conservatism about Art makes me really wonder about the workings of a mind like CP's, where she chases such diverse ideas down rabbit holes. For instance, there was a neatly folded pile of sheets starched with chalk from the White Cliffs of Dover (Inhaled Cliffs 1996); a heaped pile of brown particles, the scientifically-precipitated remains of a handgun once used by a criminal (Precipitated Gun 2015) and a doll cut in half by the guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette (Shared Fate (Oliver) 1998) - how would you even ask permission to play with such a thing? Her Little Black Book of contacts must make for fascinating reading.

Room-sized installations included The War Room 2014. The atmospheric, tented interior formed from the perforated paper left over from the Remembrance Day poppy factory in England took as inspiration the lavish, red Tudor tent at the Field of the Cloth of Gold, the site of the failed peace talks between King Henry VIII and King Francis I of France.

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation "War Room 2018", at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Remembering Wars Past
War Room, 2018

In a published conversation with the MCA Curator Rachel Kent, CP said the desiccated clay rubble excavated from under the Leaning Tower of Pisa by engineers tasked with trying to stabilise it and which forms Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05 fills the room to a certain height but doesn't go on to say precisely what this is. As I'm a pedant and Need To Know, I've spent some goodly time on the interwebs hunting down this factoid to no avail. I was intrigued by this extra physical dimension and was put in mind of the "simultaneous book" of poetry and painting which delighted me at last year's Hermitage Moderns exhibition, where the proposed lineal print-run of the avant-garde work was to match the height of its inspiration, the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps the height of the Pisa rubble matches the adjustment to the Leaning Tower's lean? Anyway, it reminded me more strongly of the Kuiper Belt, our own Solar System's tidy arrangement of debris, and was very appealing.

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation, "Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05" exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Terrestrial Concerns
Subconscious of a Monument, 2001-05

The exhibition's earliest installation, Thirty Pieces of Silver 1988-89, where the steamrollered and suspended silver-plated objects are pooled into thirty coin-shaped groupings, had a dual showing in the form of the metallic thread tapestry of thirty original selves. A very nice revisitation of one of her ideas and another of my favourites. So crafty!

Photo detail of Cornelia Parke installation "Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Steamrollered to Best Effect
Thirty Pieces of Silver (detail), 1988-89

Photo detail of Cornelia Parkers installation "Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Pools of Squashed Silver
Thirty Pieces of Silver, 1988-89

Photo of Cornelia Parker artwork "Thirty Pieces of Silver (A Tapestry), 2017-19", exhibited at the MCA Sydney, 2019
Wool, Silk and Metal Thread Depiction of the Original Loot
Thirty Pieces of Silver (A Tapestry), 2017-19

Last but not least, T, who was out visiting from London, and I got to put ourselves into one of the artist's most famous installations. A five-minutes of playing around with fame, if you like. Behold, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991, the detonated and resurrected garden shed and its contents with Your Correspondent and her dear friend:

Photo of Cornelia Parker installation "Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991", exhibited in the MCA Sydney, 2019
An Exercise in Patience Putting the Shed Shrapnel Back Together
Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991

Photo detail of hot water bottle in Cornelia Parker installation "Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991", exhibited in the MCA Sydney, 2019
Household Mundanities Given a Dramatic Twist
Cold, Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991

Me and T

As ever, it was an age ago that T & I had our day out when we met up with Cornelia's extremely likeable exhibition. It's still on at the MCA for a little bit longer (just!), and while the ticket price is a little high, I'm sure it's a justifiable reflection of the enormous task someone has to pack all this stuff up and send it back home. What a job that will be! ... And if you've stuck around thus far, you get a complimentary photo of the rather delicious cocktails which finished our outing.

Cin cin!

Image credits: Flying With Hands


  1. CIN CIN A TE!
    YOU hair is pinned up in a French twist?
    I cannot believe that is a TAPESTRY!!!
    How many years did that take to make do we know?
    I am cleaning out my office and not getting to far as I get distracted with photos and old books!
    Fun going down memory lane!

  2. Aperol spritz? My new favourite tipple!

  3. La Contessa: I think the tapestry was 2-3 years in the making, guessing by its title. It was luminous! (pun alert!) ... Hair these days a simplified late-Victorian up-do with many pins as insurance against a windy day. Still didn't stop the fuzz of flyaways making an appearance in the shadows ... Good luck with your cleanup - getting in early with some spring cleaning? Baci a te! xx

    Margaret: Yes, an Aperol spritz is rather refreshing and was indeed my tipple of choice in Greece last trip when I didn't feel an ouzo coming on. I think cocktail here may have been a bit more elaborate but just as fetching in colour. Welcome to these pages, it's very nice to see you!

  4. It sounds like a fascinating exhibition. Some of the items on display would stop me in my tracks. Ending it all off with a cocktail was a great idea.

  5. Loree: Yes, it was such a great outing and I am now a great fan of CP. Her work is so very interesting and to be honest, the exhibition would have passed me by if not for having my artistic friend make the suggestion, so I would have been all the more poorer for it. Art and cocktails are an excellent pairing!

  6. The photo of Thirty Pieces of Silver (A Tapestry), 2017-19 is my favourite. I wrote a thesis on silver art objects from 1660-1730 many years ago, and have some exquisite pieces myself. Even decades later, I can still admire those shapes that tell of Huguenot history and its impact on English silver.

  7. Hels: You are a lucky collector, indeed! Perhaps you could do a little primer on your fine blog about this interesting period. CP's tapestry was quite arresting and brought together the threads of her earlier silver installations very nicely. (Tee hee!)


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