Bird life brings joy in Janice Parker prints

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A whimsical show featuring island birds is just the thing to promote happiness, and viewers can spark their joy by visiting Cut Press Pull by Janice Parker at the Salt Spring Gallery through to Aug. 19.

Parker’s series of lino and wood-block prints puts the focus of each piece on a single bird character. Local species such as the blue heron, California quail, raven and nuthatch provide the basis for graphic renderings, mainly in simple inkings of black or blue pigment on white. Some are done portrait style, with the birds appearing to pose either in a full body or head and shoulders view. Others are in flight, providing the artistic challenge of recreating bodies in motion in a reduced two-dimensional medium.

“I like exploring; I like playing. It’s more about the process for me than anything,” Parker told the Driftwood. “It’s more of what I discover along the way sometimes.”

Although she started working on the print series before COVID struck, the pandemic aligned well with Parker’s recent area of study with a deepening focus on peace, quiet and bird life.

In Parker’s hand, the carving chisel is the perfect tool to suggest textured feathers. She ably uses positive and negative space. Solid areas suggest shadow and outline in a way that builds the contrasts naturally. The background areas, carved out to leave mostly white paper, echo the birds’ feathery plumage with light contour lines and airy swirls left behind.

Parker has also ventured into a couple of multilayered reduction prints with four colours, and portrays island harbours as “bird’s eye views.” In the latter examples she leaves water areas left as flat black ink. The land is carved into a series of waves or contour lines, which again make good use of the carving tool’s qualities to bring the image to life.

Multicolour prints like the kingfisher-based Calm Days shift the view to a more abstracted one than the clean lines of the monotoned prints, with overlaid colour in thin horizontal lines suggesting the movement of light on water.

“Both subtractive methods of printmaking intrigue me as I must think about negative space. The process of creating a printed piece can turn into a surprise once the block is printed,” Parker explains in her artist’s statement. “Keeping hands clean, enough ink on the roller, lining up reductions and simply experimenting with different parts of the process makes this a challenging medium as well as a chance to provoke further curiosity from me.”

Salt Spring Gallery is currently open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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