A transcendent exploration of light, memory, and the universal human experience unfolds at Ben Brown Fine Arts this fall. New York-based Cuban artist José Parlá is presenting his innovative series, “Phosphene,” in the Mayfair space from 11 October to 17 November 2023, in a well-anticipated event that coincides with Frieze London.
Phosphene, a term derived from the Greek words for ‘light’ and ‘to show,’ describes the sensation of seeing light with closed eyes – flashes of colours or shapes that drift across one’s vision. Parlá, in his pioneering style, adopts this phenomenon as a lens through which he portrays his complex understanding of urban spaces, human markings, memory, and energy.
“Through ‘Phosphene’ I envision a community of memories to both stimulate and provoke questions in the imaginations of those looking at my paintings. This is a universal language for all human beings, so that it unifies, not separates, us,” – Jose Parlá
Having survived a near-death experience with Covid in 2021, the works exhibited at “Phosphene” stand as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. They are powerful narratives of the artist’s journey, encapsulating personal experiences and universal themes.
Phosphene’s conception took place under the brilliant sunlight of Miami, Florida, where Parlá had retreated for a respite from his global exhibitions. The change in environment – from the industrial setting of his Brooklyn studio to the outdoors of Miami – ignited a fresh visual language in Parlá’s mind. This vivid abstract language was translated onto his canvases, materializing as enigmatic landscapes of light and shadow, adorned with intricate calligraphy suggestive of optic nerves or arterial threads.
“My intention in this work is to invite a meditation and a question – what do we see and what do we imagine when we close our eyes? What does it transcend us to? Where does it take us to?” – Jose Parlá
Each work in this exhibition pulsates with energy, driven by Parlá’s unique form of synesthesia – the intertwining of sound and colour. As he listens to music while painting, rhythmic layers of cryptic writings imbue his work with depth and luminosity. From the innovative application of the phosphene phenomenon to the distinctive synthesis of Cuban music and Hip Hop culture, the 11 artworks presented form a labyrinth of memories, textures, and impressions. They are an evolution of Parlá’s lifelong dialogue with the urban subconscious, encapsulating the rhythm and flow of the streets, the imprints we leave, and the enduring spirit of survival.
“When I paint, I experience the feeling of synesthesia that brings my body into the painting. There is an alchemical connection through material, music and movement that becomes the dance that incorporates polyrhythms of Cuban music, and Hip Hop into the language of my gestural mark making. That energy is both personal and provocative,” – Jose Parlá
Renowned for his powerfully energetic paintings and installations, Parlá’s work embodies abstract storytelling. His gestural, instinctual practice of calligraphy is a meditative process, drawing on his subconscious to infuse his work with depth and luminosity. His pieces recall the layers of city walls, reflecting the movement and textures of neighbourhoods and the physical impressions left by time and people.
In an immersive celebration of his recent past and the collective memories of the world, Parlá invites us to delve into the theatre of life in his forthcoming exhibition, “Phosphene”. The exhibition will open with a private view on Tuesday, October 10th from 6-8PM (BST), offering an exclusive first glimpse into Parlá’s captivating new series.
Ben Brown Fine Arts
José Parlá: Phosphene
12 Brook’s Mews, London
11 October – 17 November, 2023