Cornelia Parker – Pornographic Drawing

“I resurrect things that have been killed off… My work is all about the potential of materials — even when it looks like they’ve lost all possibilities.”

– Cornelia Parker

Although Cornelia Parker came to prominence around the same time as the Young British Artists, and was nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize in 1997 alongside three of the YBAs, she actually started working a decade earlier when the British art scene was still dominated by figurative painting. Her conceptual yet visually and materially rich approach to art-making has since earned her a stellar reputation in the art world, although she is still far from a household name.

Cornelia Parker - Pornographic Drawing (2000)

Drawing, 2000
signed, dated 2000 and numbered 13/200
lithograph on paper
sheet: 45.4 by 41.6 cm.
Edition number 13 of 200. Published by the Serpentine Gallery, London.

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Much of Cornelia Parker’s work is concerned with the materiality of objects and mediums, and their potential for narratives that are not immediately visible. Her series of Pornographic Drawings (made between 1995-2006) are great examples of this. The works were made by extracting ferric oxide from pornographic videotapes that had been confiscated by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise in Wales, which she then used to create Rorschach drawings – abstract ink blots that take on a symmetrical composition by folding the paper through the middle. The technique of Rorschach drawings originates from a psychoanalytical test, in which patients are analysed through their perception of such abstract imagery. In the case of Cornelia Parker’s Pornographic Drawings, many observers recognised reproductive organs, although the title refers to the materials with which the works were made, not the imagery.

The Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney recently staged a retrospective exhibition of Cornelia Parker’s work, which included similar Rorschach drawings made by juxtaposing snake venom and their anti-venom.