John Alexander Parks presents a set of new paintings that explore and revel in the time-honored challenge of representing the ocean. Riffing on historic renderings of naval battles, wrecks and catastrophic storms, Parks embraces the inherent artificiality of the genre, remaking the ocean in paint with extraordinary conviction.
Before the advent of photography, painting an endlessly shifting body of water required both keen observation and considerable imagination. In a very real way every representation of the sea until the late nineteenth century was a complete fabrication, an exercise in artifice. And yet there was a continual demand for nautical subjects. The Dutch, Flemish and English fielded enormous fleets of both commercial and naval vessels and scenes of battles, storms, or simply glorious spectacles of ships at sea were much in demand from the late fifteenth century onwards. Artists strove to make their oceans convincing even if they were far from accurate. In quite another tradition, Chinese and Japanese artists found equally inventive solutions to representing the ocean and its movements. Parks’ new paintings enter into the spirit of this creative task, to produce pictures that are playful, strangely affecting, often exciting and always visually rich.
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