Cornelia Parker is very clearly a conceptual artist. Her work is all about the idea, with aesthetics often playing a part, but very much a secondary concern.
What do I think Parker is trying to do in her piece ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2010’?
Parker’s work is mostly all about the conceptual message. The concept of mixing poison and antidote with black and white ink links two different opposites together and provide the subject for this work. Mixing the two inks together and using Rorschach blots introduces random results, so she is not in control of the outcome. Hidden meanings might be found in the phrase ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, in using poisoned ink in these drawings.
I think this work is more of an extension of her earlier work ‘Pornographic Drawing 1996’ where she extracted the ferric oxide component from confiscated pornographic films and used these as the ink. With those drawings, her use of Rorschach drawings was more relevant to the subject as these drawings are used in psychoanalysis to reveal subconscious desires, providing additional layers of meaning to appreciate. Especially as the image produced was very phallic in appearance.
In ‘Poison and Antidote Drawing, 2010’, the Rorschach drawings show how the two inks react with each other, but I’m not sure they have a deeper meaning than that. What they do provide is interesting shapes and patterns and the resulting drawing is aesthetically pleasing.
Embracing the random element of working with materials fits with my recent experiments with gunpowder and rust, but in my work I feel I need more than just a concept and I associate ‘art’ with the skill of the artist.
Why do I think Parker uses bits of her subject to make her artwork?
The subject is Parker’s work. Without that link to the original item, the work doesn’t work, it wouldn’t resonate with the people viewing it and it would fail.
How do I think it feels to stand in the presence of artworks that are constructed from original objects of great cultural significance? How does that differ from, say, standing in front of a painting of the same object?
In our society, we value history highly. The use of original objects makes us feel a connection with the past time in which those objects were created or used. So their use in making artwork brings about a much stronger reaction in us than their representation in drawing/painting. Ai Weiwei’s ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, 1995’ is a good example of this.
Ai Weiwei (cited in Guggenheim, 2018):
‘It’s powerful only because someone thinks it’s powerful and invests value in the object.’
Artsy.net. (n.d.). Poison and Antidote Drawings. [online] Available at: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/cornelia-parker-poison-and-antidote-drawings-8 [Accessed 23 Jul. 2018].
British Museum. (2018). Poison drawing. [online] Available at: http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=691360&partId=1&school=13279&page=5 [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Guggenheim. (2018). Ai Weiwei. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/ai-weiwei [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].
Wroe, N. (2018). Cornelia Parker: ‘I’ve always been happy to sleep with the enemy’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/may/18/cornelia-parker-interview [Accessed 7 Jun. 2018].