Silas T Parry
Invited to collaborate by Holly Knox Yeoman & Ben Burtenshaw
♦ Bringing Silence to the Table ♦
(A personal ode to one particular collaborative partnership, and an analysis of how two friends and artists maintained the ability to retreat while using the painting process as a shared dialogue, or ‘Table’.)
Last winter I met an old man on a bench. He sipped from his disposable coffee cup, rummaged about in his pockets for a cigarette. We glanced at each other, smiled. Then looked away again. A cold wind blew through the spidery trees behind us. The old man cleared his throat and said: It was a conversation that lasted many years.
Is it possible for two people to build something silently? Without words? Yes, we never spoke. Never? Not about the work, no. At least, not for a long time.
Look; two friends sit sharing a coffee and a cigarette on a bench. Their hands are covered in paint. They have known each other for years. It feels like forever. Two young men, about the same age. They aren’t speaking. They don’t need to. As I said, they know each other well.
Is it possible for two people to collaborate without ever having a conversation about their work together? The old man finishes his coffee and says: Oh yes. A look, a gesture, that is enough. It was all instinctual. After a while the paint filled the space where the words could have been. It was better that way.
Some way away, a little child chases after a ball that is rolling away in the wind. The ball is coming towards us, and it almost reaches the bench before the child catches it. He is wrapped up in a furry jacket. He picks the ball up and stares at us: Look—cadmium yellow. Right up beside some sort of dirty pistachio, a smear of rust.
It is the middle of night and the room is lit by a floodlight tied to one wall. Some music plays in the background. I watch as my friend takes a wallpaper scraper and applies a thick grey to one corner of the canvas. He stands back, looks at it, then wipes it all away again. We laugh.
Eventually, words came. You started speaking? Well, we had always spoken. We were close. But you talked about the paintings? The process? We did, yes.
The old man watches as the child in the distance kicks his ball. It swerves wildly into the wind. The old man looks at me and says: We had made a body of work for a show in our home town. We knew we needed some words. It was required. Just a few, scattered over the top. One or two, even. Anything at all. But they needed to be true.
It took a long time in front of a computer. But, eventually, words appeared on the screen:
Out of silence we built a respectful tolerance towards the mutual destruction of each other’s work and ideas—this destruction accelerated the abstraction process. The consistency of a changing and unstructured approach to image allows a continual dialogue that creates its own language.
♦ ♦ ♦
Silas Parry is an artist and writer from Scotland. He was a recipient of the Edinburgh Visual Artist Award 2014. He recently had a solo exhibition at the Courtyard Gallery, Summerhall, Edinburgh.