JS Parker

For background on the artist and works, see below.

Current Works

About the Artist

On 14 August, 2017, prominent NZ abstract artist, poet and thinker – and friend – JS Parker passed away. He was a great influence on many people and left us knowing he had completed some of his finest works on a grand scale in his last solo exhibition Colour & Scale. He will be sorely missed at both personal and professional level. We will update on works available as soon as practicable.     The rivers and reflections, dramatic skies and dust-blown hills of Marlborough and Canterbury find their way into many of the abstract paintings of leading NZ artist JS (John Shotton) Parker. Highly regarded by collectors nationally and internationally, JS Parker is best known for his large impasto paintings within a grid format, full of texture, rhythm and balance within his imposed framework, exploring juxtapositions of colour. He works in thick layers of paint applied with a palette knife, sweeps of paint which he may pare back to reveal hints of what lies beneath. A keen angler and walker, Parker derives much inspiration from the Wairau River and the Wairau Diversion (The Diversion Gallery is named after one of his paintings), particularly the colours of sky and land reflected in the ‘shifting mirror’ of the flowing water. He doesn’t consciously set out to paint Marlborough, but his work captures a spiritual feeling about certain places, like the river or the sea at Rarangi (Cloudy Bay). ‘Or you look up to see what the weather is doing against the hills. Water and sky are the most ephemeral kind of elements.’ Based in Marlborough, he exhibits nationally and his work is held in national public and private collections. New works may be available on enquiry – please for details. For more details on the works shown, including price, please click on the image.

Recent Works

JS Parker emphatically returned to working on a large scale with his 2016 series, the Vertical Lyric Suite, focused on a single pulsing field of colour, anchored in space by the yin and yang of notches above and below, these sometimes also referring to colour in the landscape that falls through the painting. The major work of the exhibition Colour & Scale is Plain Song for Ralph (the Hotere canvas), the title alluding to the origins of the canvas itself – being the last, vast canvas that celebrated artist the late Ralph Hotere began to plan out several years ago, before ill health forced him to abandon the composition. He had observed that Parker was one of the few NZ abstract painters who could handle a canvas of this scale and thus, ultimately it came to Parker’s Marlborough studio; although the composition is entirely Parker’s own. Their friendship began in 1975 when Parker was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship and lived in Dunedin, with Hotere encouraging the younger artist to continue to work on a large scale, acquiring several of Parker’s works.

The 2014 series of Plain Song, From the Loft has a hint of the horizon in the line far below the uplifted, optimistic square of light, drawing on a childhood memory of a hayloft, as well as a current metaphor for the artist working alone in the studio, separated from the real world yet aware of it, uplifted by the process of painting.

Other recent works have a sense of embracing life in the moment; as well as simply riding the rhythms of superbly juxtaposed colours.

An ongoing series of small Plain Song compositions stand on their own but sometimes lead on to the large works for which he is best known. Recent years have seen a considerable surge of interest in this artist’s steadfast pursuit of balance of colour and form in his Plain Songs.

We have available the book JS Parker: Plain Song by Dr Damian Skinner, $50.


More About the Artist

Born in 1944, JS Parker was described in the AKL international art dictionary as ‘one of the most substantial New Zealand painters of his generation. He stood out as one whose art centres on the pursuit of an approach where vigour has greater value than refinement’.

Parker studied art at Ilam School of Fine Arts at Canterbury University and in the mid 1970s was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at Otago University. He ultimately settled in Marlborough and focused on the light and colours of the landscape, where he believed New Zealand’s greatest character lies. His contribution and steadfast vision was recognized in 2003 when he was awarded the Order of New Zealand Merit for 40 years of services to painting.

He constantly refined his art towards a horizon of infinite possibility, and experimented with both form and colour – ‘you are not so much creating as discovering.’

The works of this leading New Zealand painter continued to explore the nuances of light and juxtapositions of colour, often inspired by the South Island land, waters and light, sometimes by a feeling of time and place. There is also an enthusiastic following for his unique ‘black and white’ paintings, often using tar alongside white oil paint in a juxtaposition of the staunch and the vulnerable, sometimes jolted with a spike of colour. His Plain Songs refer not only to the South Island plains but also the formal structure of Gregorian chants. A music lover of wide taste, he was particularly inspired by blues, jazz and classical music; his work often shows a musical rhythm and balance, or a fine line like a high continuous note.

Parker’s impasto paintings are keenly sought after by collectors in New Zealand and overseas and their value has risen steadily. His small Plain Song paintings have the freshness of discovery as Parker explored structures and linkages within a tight framework. He is best known however for his large scale paintings of about 1.2 to 2.5 metres.


Please contact us to confirm current prices: most prices are posted at the time of exhibition, and may be revised as the artists' values increase.