John Parker: Permutations and Combinations (2021)
A permutation is a fundamental change brought about through the rearrangement of existing elements. It is also the form that results from this change and, in mathematical terms, a permutation is an ordered arrangement of a set of objects (1). The vessels and objects in this body of work from John Parker reference each of these definitions.
Parker uses the elements integral to his ceramic practice to explore and extend the boundaries of that practice. In Permutations and Combinations, he describes self-set parameters of medium (clay), process (wheel-thrown), and colour (single glaze), within which his monochrome series are created (2). These “rules” inform the variables that he is able to select for each piece: shape, surface, line, repetition, space. Through constant experimentation - rearranging - of these existing elements, each work is a permutation of another.
Working with infinite combinations, Parker is free to explore how far he can push his three ground rules. Cylinders, cones, and orbs are sliced and rearranged into hybrid vessels and ceramic pleats expand and contract, accordion-like, to create the bodies of bottles. Carefully chosen use of line, ridges and grooves can interrupt the way a vessel displaces space or define the volume it contains. The closely configured lines of Matt White Grooved Vessel [PC 23] blur its outline and the vessel shrinks in on itself whereas the expanse of smooth surface and thick ridges of Charcoal Grooved Bottle [PC 29] push outwards as if impelled by an internal force.
The rules for Parker’s Polychrome series shift and the artist allows himself five glazes per vessel. Layers of colour, texture, and matt or gloss are built up to create singular works that are variations on an endlessly fascinating theme. The vagaries of chemical reactions provide moments of serendipity beyond Parker’s full control, but the end results are compelling. The dense colours of the Polychrome works blur into one another in a paradoxical state of constant, frozen movement constrained by the geometry of the ceramic form.
2. Artist's statement, November 2021