Sulger-Buel Gallery cordially invites you to attend the opening of our next solo exhibition featuring Carolyn Parton (South Africa), titled Songs Beneath the Surface. The exhibition will be opened in the presence of the artist on Tuesday 04 December 2018 at 18:30 and concludes Friday 28 December 2018.

Carolyn Parton is primarily a sculptural painter with a focus on environmental concerns, innovatively extending the medium through her exploration of paint as physical matter; embedded with memory.

Her research article Extended Traces: Tracking the impact of painter upon environment was published in 2010.

Collecting spent paint — particularly that which has a backstory — from local housepainters to acclaimed international artists, she develops methods to reclaim this paint, incorporating it as a remnant of environment and history.

Like an archaeologist, Parton explores crucial moments of human evolution to understand who we are in the present, as we stand at the cusp of an environmental challenge that will determine our legacy. Her sculpted paint cascades, stratified paint landscapes, freely suspended paint works and clustered jewel like paint tubes, become the archive.

Her most recent project is influenced by the current debate in South Africa around decolonisation. Exploring this moment has led to her taking apart the works from books that were a part of her art studies over decades – breaking them down and reworking them into her paint process. The project is part of an ongoing process of re-thinking her sociocultural/environmental context.

Parton holds Bachelor of art in Fine Art (cum laude) from the University of South Africa, 2008 and an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design, Cape Town University of Technology. Her solo exhibitions include Emergence (1997), Release (2009) and This Remembering Land (2015). She has taken part in numerous group exhibitions throughout South Africa and in London, Venice and Rome. Her work is included in permanent collections such as Southern African Foundation for Contemporary Art, University of Cape Town, University of South Africa and The Constitutional Court of South Africa. She has also practised as a creative director in the design industry. She currently lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.

Songs Beneath the Surface continues Carolyn Parton’s philosophical fascination with hypostasis – that which makes up the underlying or fundamental reality of things. She is known for working with the discarded remnants of art making, particularly the paint and paint tubes from renowned artists and local industry. These materials are reconstituted in an alchemical and archaeological sense in her practice that speaks to a larger human story of creation and destruction.

The work in this latest solo exhibition uses this practice to respond directly to a series of both personal and social traumatic triggering at the time of the South African Universities #FEESMUSTFALL movement. During this movement, which constituted both violent protest and open dialogue, issues were raised with colonial knowledge systems and teaching approaches in tertiary institutions in a postcolonial nation. At the time, Parton was confronting her own personal traumas. She had amassed a collection of outdated art history books that she began to work with. Her personal responses to images and art historical references began to gather socio-political significance as the student protests extended to the burning of paintings.

As with the other arts debris she works with, Parton’s use of books begins to confront larger structures of value and waste in a contemporary context. In light of the student protests, the drive to destroy as a tool for liberation is echoed through Parton’s creative practice where a new visual language emerges from the dismantling of an existing structure, situating the creative act as the greatest form of both protest and renewal.

Parton’s practice could be described as enlisting a subterranean awareness to the process of creation. By refusing to look away, by confronting the mire of that which is deemed ‘useless’, by tirelessly sifting and sorting the debris, she enacts the reclamation of culture and material from the toxic landfill of history.