Cornelia Parker: Master of Exploding Objects and Silhouettes
By: Elaine Wang
Cornelia Parker, a British artist, is unlike the ones you normally see. The creative figure uses explosives, steamrollers, snake venom, and even a guillotine to create her unique works of art.
As one of three daughters of an abusive father in the 1960s, Parker enjoyed placing coins on nearby train tracks to watch them become squashed and deformed, which became her only source of entertainment as she was not allowed playtime. To her, this “seemingly innocuous act was exhilaratingly destructive”, and helped her develop an inspiration for her future artworks.
One of Parker’s works of art clearly defines her use of steamrollers and squashing objects. In Thirty Pieces of Silver, Parker displays a collection of old silver objects, all crushed flat by a steamroller she drove over the pieces.
“Everything just sort of weaves together,” Parker explains to BBC Culture.
Aside from her passion for squashing things, Parker also has a fascination for silhouettes and shadows. The artist finds the “imaginativeness” of shadows intriguing.
“You become a shadow,” she said. “The light amplifies all the instruments, they become more cacophonous through that, so it’s almost like you’re getting visual amplification rather than audial. It’s like magnifying everything.”
So, it is no surprise that when Parker combines her favorite silhouettes and explosiveness, she gets her best-known work, Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, where the exploded pieces of a garden shed she blew up are hanging from invisible threads, the lightbulb in the middle casting shadows of the wreckage onto nearby walls.
“I’ve always liked nocturnes. The first time I really used lights was my exploded shed. I wanted to make a work with a light source. It’s linked to the explosion – the flash – so that’s where the light first appeared,” she says.
In another piece, Parker uses a mix of techniques she experimented with in Thirty Pieces of Silver and Cold Dark Matter to create Perpetual Canon, showcasing sixty crushed brass-band instruments.
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