Hole & Corner Selects: Joel Parkes
Words Vilma Paasivaara
Photographs Pelle Crepin
Wood artist Joel Parkes is showing his work at the Old Truman Brewery as part of the British Craft Pavilion this weekend. He talks about his work, wood and how he finds beauty in imperfections in the Elements Issue…
‘Part of what I’ve always done with my life is to set out to do something that’s ridiculous and stupid and far more work than it should be,’ says Joel Parkes. His ambitious, predominantly wood-based sculptures tend to consist of groups of objects that collectively trace the life cycle of a tree. And, as he explains, they are in constant evolution. ‘My work isn’t about making just one thing and it sits there and it’s static and it’s over,’ he says. ‘It’s got a family; it’s got an evolution. It has pieces that prefix it and pieces that suffix it. So the whole thing is one long process – and it will turn into other materials, it will turn into other realms, other techniques… so it’s all process, but it has several endpoints along the way.’
What makes Parkes’s work unique is the way he stresses his material to breaking point – and then embraces those fractures by bejewelling them with precious metals and stones. ‘I suppose the whole point is to investigate the beauty of flaws and imperfections as opposed to things just being broken or badly made,’ he explains. ‘Acceptance of that – and drawing attention to it – is what makes people beautiful.’ He admits that the process is sometimes ‘a nightmare’ – from dealing with the enormous pieces of wood to the introspective nature of his practice. And while he sees the constant clash with the material as a fundamental element in his work he sees all the four elements in the wood he works with.
‘A tree is the shape of a lung, water is its oxygen – that is what a tree is, so in material terms it is a concoction of earth, wind, water, all of the elements. I really believe working with wood is like working with a futuristic material. It is incredible, it has flex, it’s beautiful, and we understand it. I really feel like all of the elements are involved in that material and that is why I work with it.’