Art & Photography

Cornelia Parker at Frith Street Gallery

The artist continues her exploration of negative space as a positive space in her solo exhibition at the London gallery
I was having lunch in Bunhill Fields graveyard the other day watching the tourists gather around William Blake’s grave (while simultaneously ignoring Daniel Defoe’s grave). They took their cameraphone snaps and, no doubt instagrammed them and that was that, another bit of London “done”. In another corner of the graveyard, workmen were attaching earthmoving machinery to somebody’s grave. Exhumation? Repairs? Snapchat fodder? Probably at least two of the three. You experience something as dramatic as this over a falafel and it makes you think how curious contemporary life is. The idea of memorialising memorials is something only modernity could dream up. Little did I know that later that same afternoon, I would be in Frith Street Gallery looking at casts of the area between the paving stones of Bunhill Fields in Cornelia Parker’s new show at the space.

The work is titled Black Path (Bunhill Fields) and is suspended a little bit above ground level by steel pins. If you know Parker’s work, Black Path is familiar-ish territory. Possibly her best known work is an exploded shed titled Cold Dark Matter: an Exploded View which she managed to get the British Army to detonate a garden shed after which she hung the charred results as a kind of post-kinetic sculpture. Parker also reassembled a church destroyed by lightning a few years later. There are no explosions or charred remains here, but there is the same investigation of negative space as positive space. The bits of the shed weren’t particularly interesting on their own, but hung in the quasi-futurist composition that Parker fashioned, the spaces between the disarticulated fragments of shed became quite eloquent. This is true of Black Path and another work in the show, Unsettled 2012, in which pieces of wood Parker found walking around the Old City of Jerusalem – note the Blake parallel – are suspended at plausible angles against the east wall of the gallery. Upon closer inspection, the pieces are hung on wires and are just out of touch with the wall. For me, this brings a subtlety to the works which is missing from the literal bombast of Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View. While doubtlessly iconic, Cold Dark Matter… was unquestionably art-at-first-sight. When I first walked into Frith Street and saw Unsettled 2012 I thought I’d be accidentally buzzed in during a re-hang. Then, I got closer. Then, I saw the wires. Then I knew I was looking at art. Art that forces you to reconsider your position in the world one easy (or uneasy) step.

Cornelia Parker runs until 27 July at Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square, London W1F 9JJ

Cornelia Parker, Black Path (Bunhill Fields) 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery. (Photography Stephen White)
Cornelia Parker, Black Path (Bunhill Fields) 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery. (Photography Stephen White)
Cornelia Parker Unsettled, 2012 - 2013
Cornelia Parker, Unsettled, 2012 - 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery. (Photography Stephen White)