4 Contextual Focus Point: Cornelia Parker
Research the work of Cornelia Parker. Make notes in your own words in response to the following:
- What do you think Parker is trying to do in her piece Poison and Antidote Drawing (2010)?
- Poison and Antidote Drawing is created using rattlesnake venom and black ink, anti-venom and white ink. Parker often uses bits of her subject to make her artwork.
- Why do you think she does this?
- How do you think it feels to stand in the presence of artworks that are constructed from original objects of great cultural significance?
How does that differ from, say, standing in front of a painting of the same object?
During the research for this section I happened upon the British Museum’s website where the objective and inspirations for Parker are noted. I have reproduced a part of this below where Parker describes her ideas inspirations for this series of pieces where she utilises poison and ink.
From the British Museum’s writings on Parkers drawings : Curator’s comments:
“Parker describes the process of making the drawings as follows: ‘In the ‘Poison’ and ‘Antidote’ drawings which is a series of linked pairs, I began with the idea of different sorts of oppositional things. I was thinking of Hitler and Freud, for example, in terms of how they seem to personify contrasting parts of the psyche. I also wanted to make something physically dangerous. The idea of poison appealed to me when I thought of someone literally dropping dead on reading a ‘poisoned’ letter…Mixing snake venom and ink had a lot of resonance for me and using Rorschach blots was significant as I could not fully dictate the result. The drawings literally come from the material…I used Parker ‘Quink’ and this created a fluid substance which rendered soft, almost oriental shapes…The way I thought about the antidote drawing is that it should be molecular in form, rather like antibodies in the body. By dropping the mixture of anti-venom and correction fluid onto the paper the final form was, once again, beyond my control.”
What do you think Parker is trying to do in her piece Poison and Antidote Drawing (2010)?
Parkers aim is to juxtaposition oppositional objects and ideas together, contrasting parts of the psyche as well as making something physically dangerous. We have no idea of how venomous the poison used is, some venoms leaves you with a tingling sensation in the affect part whilst others will have you meeting your Maker in minutes.
She introduces symmetry to the pieces by have them as linked pairs. The ink mix seems to be splashed on the page and then folded in two to produce this symmetry.
The image produces is reminiscent of a spatchcock animal or a butterfly pinned up as an exhibition piece. It is also a bit like the scanned image of internal but obscure part of the body! Part of the thrill of work on these pieces for her was the deadly nature of the medium. Unlike van Gogh you are recommended to NOT lick your brush.
Poison and Antidote Drawing is created using rattlesnake venom and black ink, anti-venom and white ink. Parker often uses bits of her subject to make her artwork. Why do you think she does this?
Parker utilises part of the subject in the medium as a means to link the usually quite separate elements of the subject and the materials it is produced in. This link of medium and artwork bonds the two elements together. Though usually quite divorced from each other she links them unequivocally by having part of the subject used to produce a drawing of the subject.
She has indicated that she wished to make linked pairs and pairing the subject and the drawing media via the material of the subject ties them together on several levels.
She is linking pairs of ideas and materials together. She has venom and anti-venom along with black ink and white ink. She utilises the tonal aspect of this in the image itself by contrasting the light and darks and the soft and hard edges throughout her work. In “Drawing Projects”* page 54, Parker mentions that her drawings are a combination of good and evil.
You could similarly chop a chunk off a car to make a model of it. Marc Quinn with ‘Self’ 2006 (Fig 2) takes this to extremes when he utilises his own frozen blood to produce a cast of his face. This is sitting in the middle of a room at the National Portrait Gallery from those of a delicate disposition to stumble onto.
How do you think it feels to stand in the presence of artworks that are constructed from original objects of great cultural significance? How does that differ from, say, standing in front of a painting of the same object?
Another question to throw into the mix on this one is: Which artwork is the more significant. The original older more culturally significant piece or the newer work which may be more relevant to contemporary society.
Many great piece of golden art from Celtic and Saxon times has been melted down into newer great works of art of beautiful jewellery. Are they more beautiful today as they are reborn or is the earlier piece the more beautiful. A subjective choice and many have chosen the view of the newer piece, though quite often this was with motives of profit than altruistic views.
If I was to stand in the presence of an artwork or culturally significant piece that had been remade, I would be quite sad and with a feeling of loss. Why ruin the work of another to produce your own work. However, this is not always the case. Take the old abandoned power station I passed regularly on my way to work for 20 years. It was worthless, an eye-sore and too expensive to pull down. However, it was reborn as the Tate Modern on the South Bank. It was culturally and structurally significant but this old meaning was surpassed in its new guise as a gallery.
Fig 3. Poison and Antidote Drawing, (2012)
List of Illustrations
Fig 1. Parker, Cornelia. Poison and Antidote Drawing, (2012) [Rattlesnake venom and black ink Anti-venom and white ink]. At www.frithstreetgallery.com/shows/works/poison_and_antidote_drawing1. (Accessed 2 June’17)
Fig 2. Quinn, Marc (2006). Self – Blood [Frozen cabinet with blood portrait] At http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw138260/Marc-Quinn-Self (Accessed 2 June’17)
Fig 3. Parker, Cornelia. Poison and Antidote Drawing, (2012) [Rattlesnake venom and black ink Anti-venom and white ink]. At https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/87/35/80/8735806ca8ef869c1decba225b07c1a5.jpg. (Accessed 2 June’17)
Fig 4. Parker, Cornelia. Poison and Antidote Drawing, (2009) [Rattlesnake venom and black ink Anti-venom and white ink]. At https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/Poison-and-Antidote-Drawing/DD124EADB0CCA52D?test_related_artists=3&utm_expid=.Y_yUGC0iRAmk48W_NagSLQ.3&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2F . (Accessed 2 June’17)
British Museum (2017). Poison and Antidote Drawing, (2012) [online] At: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=691360&partId=1&school=13279&page=5 (Accessed 2 June’17)