Like all things of beauty and rarity found in the natural world, Ian Parry’s paintings contain a kind of pure intensity that immediately transfixes the eye. His vibrant use of colour is wielded with genius mark-making skill that belies the complete confidence of this senior Australian artist. Parry’s paintings are dense and chromatically complex, comprised of rich layers of colour that break through one another and loose gestural marks on the surface. Executed with the easy grace and effortless touch arrived at through decades of art-making, his technique is coupled with the deep insight of an artist who has lived immersed in his subject matter for years.
Parry describes his paintings as felt rather than thought. Looking at his work the viewer experiences the world through the eyes of one who has not only seen, but regularly breathed and felt those moonlit nights on cold Tasman waters. While his images evolve from memory and feeling, they rely equally on the current throb of the living, swirling sea and sky to temper their profound depth with a sparkle of immediacy.
The elemental forces of nature provide an endlessly shifting muse that Parry has been captivated by for a lifetime, both as an avid mariner and as an artist. Whether at the helm of his boat or at the mast of an easel, the two activities feed into one another, and these paintings convey that very real depth of experience. Location is central to his practice – namely southern Tasmania. The artist lives and works 43 degrees south of the Equator where the ocean is dominated by the wild ‘Roaring Forties’, a sailing term for the westerlies that sweep across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, impeded by no major landmass to abate their fury. Parry has noted that in this part of the world, the landscape is more aptly described as an event – and indeed while small in scale, these are truly eventful paintings.
It is difficult to avoid comparisons with the greats of western art – Turner’s sublime light filled atmosphere fused with Ryder’s dark and mood driven symbolism. But Parry owns a very distinct aesthetic, a weighty solidity that nonetheless shimmers with the vitality of the moment. His are ageless pictures that have the ability to speak beyond the constraints of time and place.
© Marguerite Brown
All images Courtesy Ian Parry and James Makin Gallery, Melbourne