‘Rising Action’ is Colombian artist Santiago Parra’s first solo UK show.
Parra’s large abstract works are the result of what he describes as ‘accomplishing the ideal of Automatic Painting’.
His inspiration comes from surrealism, calligraphy, literature and abstract expressionism but his ultimate goal is to produce work through a ‘single, honest’ brushstroke, which is never retouched’.
Parra’s urgent strokes swirl, drip and spatter across the canvas. The use of monochrome throughout gives the show a real unity and creates a cohesive, stark and even foreboding narrative.
Although each painting is meant to represent a unique, immediate emotion the overall effect is earthy and powerful rather than fleeting and elusive.
Jackson Pollock is referred to in the exhibition’s literature but the paintings remind me more of Franz Kline’s works who shared Parra's interest in calligraphy.
I am intrigued to know whether true to the idea of removing any outside and conscious influences from the act of creation, Parra chooses not to edit his work and is bound to showing every piece created within a given period, no matter how they turn out.
The works are left untitled which prevents us from getting any clues about the painter’s state of mind when he created them. The viewer can choose to read these traces of feelings as they wish and create their own stories.
Maybe this is the show’s strength but also its weakness. After all viewers always like a good story and I am left wondering what makes Parra tick and what created those emotions that he so eloquently displays on the canvas.
The JD Malat gallery provides a perfect space for the imposing pieces. The gallery opened in June 2018 and is run by art royalty Jean-David Malat who has helped many celebrities, from Madonna to Kate Moss, choose pieces for their art.
Although galleries often have the reputation of being unwelcoming environments for those who are not art insiders, everything here is made to make you feel welcome, from the friendly staff to the comfortable, yet impeccably stylish, armchair and sofa that have been added to the space.
JD Malat himself is charm personified, happily agreeing to talk about the show and to pause in front of one of the paintings. The French native does not even seem bothered that my many years spent in Blighty have rendered my own command of the language atrocious when I briefly switch to Moliere’s tongue.
Malat first came across Parra’s work at an auction in New York and was immediately taken by what he saw. ‘It stopped me in my tracks. I was intrigued. Every painting is an emotion, an action. You can feel it. Each painting gives you a different emotion, a different vibe. He is talented, young and I really wanted to bring him to London'.
It seems that Malat has again chosen his latest protégé well as the show has almost sold out after only a day and Parra’s Colombian gallery already has a long waiting list of collectors clamouring for his works.
So go and visit this fascinating gallery and exhibition, the gallery also has a floor dedicated to showcasing pieces by some of the artists it represents, which includes the beautifully poetic text work of Robert Montgomery.
They will make you feel equally welcome whether you are Madonna, an experienced collector or someone who knows nothing about art and Parra is definitely and artist who will be a successful part of the international art scene for many years to come.
'Rising Action' runs from 16 November – 15 December 2018 at the JD Malat Gallery, Mayfair, London.
(Picture of JD Malat courtesy of JD Malat gallery)