Drawing Attention


Lizzie Parry makes drawings and paintings inspired by the urban surroundings of South East London where she lives.  Her subjects include both the organic such as city trees (adorned with plastic bags) and the man-made urban ephemera of brick walls, street furniture and transport routes.   These objects, buildings and landscapes may be un-celebrated in the main, but when framed within a painting are given the chance to be curious, playful, meaningful even, and always have a specific historical and narrative context.  


Embedded within the paintings are references to the history of art practice concurrent with the social history of these subjects.  The aesthetic concerns which characterised Modernism and the 20th century are referenced.  Modernism's use of the grid;  the re-orientation from the post-medieval illusionistic vertical picture plane into the 20th century’s horizontal flatbed plane; the importance of appropriation in art and the niggle of memory as embodied by ruins are all explored.   The Modern has become historical and the “now” of the 20th century is of course the “then” of the 21st.  Modernism has itself become part of an historical narrative.


The paintings and drawings aim to draw attention to these historically charged subjects, to provoke some curiosity.  Colour is heightened and the graphic qualities of the subject are emphasised: the curve in a railing, the tangle of a branch, the perspectival rush of a receding alley way. The formal requirements of picture making relating to composition, scale and orientation all aim to draw the viewer into a dynamic relationship with the paintings and so allow the subject to be intriguing.  The paintings are an interpretation, not merely factual.  Honest, but not necessarily true to life. A story of sorts.


The most recent paintings, the “Flatbed Appropriation” series, depict street railings seen around Camberwell and Peckham which mark the boundaries of post-war housing estates.  These distinctive railings are in fact upturned World War II Air Raid Protection stretchers, manufactured in the 1940s and later reclaimed and put to an alternative use.  Flipped from the horizontal to the vertical these beds were appropriated to become fences.   The characteristic “wiggle” along each section formed the foot of the stretcher bed when horizontal, a functional innovation and simplistic design feature with no discernible use or aesthetic rationale when stood vertically.  The grids of the mattress support are still in place, though their functional uniformity is now mangled or disrupted by the wear and tear of street existence.  This neat example of inspired recycling, characteristic of the mid-20th century’s “make do and mend” mentality makes for a nice story, one which now is either unknown or dismissed as an urban myth.  Simple, and increasingly decayed pieces of street furniture which blend into the background of everyday urban living.  By drawing attention to them Lizzie appropriates the railings for her own purposes and celebrates them, before they disappear completely.