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Technology has caught up with Selma Parlour. The abstract painter has long made work which looks to be modelled on screen and then machined onto the linen which she favours. Now she has accessed three actual ‘machines’ to augment her brush and add a further conceptual dimension to her explorations of non-referential form, luminous colour, precision draftsmanship, pictorial language, and flatness.

Her three new muses are an old tech duplicator, an industrial coding machine and a laser engraver. The duplicator, otherwise known as a risograph, has been used to emulate paint, but if anything the results looks handmade. The industrial coding machine is more generally used to print batch numbers onto items on a production line. Here it finds new purpose spraying fragments of text into wedge shapes onto a pair of diptychs. Combining a machine for fixing prices into conversation with a form from devotional art, Parlour offers a startling mix of sacred and profane. Finally, her laser engraver has been used to erase the undercoat which she uses to make her linens glow. This task recalls Homer's Odyssey, and the wily work of Penelope, working on her tapestry by day and unravelling it by night.

Along with wedges, Parlour's formal language includes trapeziums and stripe-like borders. There are frames throughout her work, although none to be seen around it. In this way, her paintings refer to other paintings, and the tradition of picture making she takes as her starting point. Internal contradictions within the composition ensure you never forget this is a two-dimensional surface. Her delicate shading can only hint at depth, and heighten the intensity of the jewel-like works. She layers her paint with great patience and skill to achieve a luminous ground, with as much light trickery as a Van Eyck or a Rothko. As a result her colours punch out, in a wild range of shades from pretty pastel to harshly acidic. These are best appreciated in a series of more than a dozen smallish works, 41cm x 30.5cm, which go by the name 'Smack Dab'. What sounds like a wrestling move is a battle of shapes which never quite overlap and dense colours which are somehow weightless.

Another small format series is 'Four Ways from Sunday', of which there are only three. In these works, disparate forms appear in greyscale with a corner or two steeped in Parlour's vibrant palette. These works appear unfinished as if bearing an artist's memo-to-self about colourways. Across the space is another, four-strong, series 'Miniaturised Minimalism'. Parlour had access to a laser engraver while on a residency in Los Angeles and the new technology quite fits with her love of finely calibrated geometric puzzles. They puzzle, because they're so hard to grasp.

Parlour can seem less concerned with speaking to the viewer, than speaking across history to many other painters. Her erasures with lasers conjure with Rauschenberg, who famously rubbed out a drawing by De Kooning. Her titles namecheck Giotto, the US minimalist Robert Mangold, and painter of 19th century Edo, Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

But she is not being wilfully highbrow. One of the stars in her firmament is a fictional character from a 1954 Hollywood film, namely Gladys Glover. Her name appears on one of the larger works here, printed with coding machine alongside Parlour's own digital signature. It's another wrestling face off. Glover is an ordinary woman who longs for fame and uses paid advertising to make her dreams come true. Parlour has suggested that the resulting movie, 'It Should Happen to You', is a premonition of selfie culture with Glover as Western culture's first influencer. It's a fascinating aside for a show which makes a virtue of its superficial finish. Parlour's highly technical, lexical, and at times abstruse works are much more challenging than that last viral tweet you saw. – Mark Sheerin, 'Selma Parlour's Machine Code', FAD magazine, 15th January 2020



Get yourself down to Pi Artworks pronto for the latest exhibition by London-based artist Selma Parlour. All clean lines, illusion and soft-focus hues, her trick-of-the-eye paintings are like abstract fantasy worlds. – Clara Strunck, 'Capital Gains, What to do in London: Life of Pi', ES Magazine, 21th November 2019







Smack dab II (2019) oil on linen, 41cm x 30.5cm, private collection



Selma Parlour is something of a rare breed: a young artist with one foot in the academic world and the other in the studio. Her carefully-studied paintings evoke and expand upon the formal techniques pioneered most famously by postwar American artists, while her studies engage with the theory and discourse behind the canonized work from that time. Her first show at Pi Artworks in London, titled "Upright Animal," features 23 subtly-complex canvases composed of sharp, overlapping shapes and bands of matte colors. Parlour paints with thin films of oil on linen, using the technique to play with depth and texture. The result is an illusory, tromp l'oeil-like effect that works against the eye's instinctual efforts in finding points of focus. All paintings need to be seen in person to be properly appreciated, of course, but that's especially the case with Parlour's work, which purposely subverts the optics of a camera lens. What's more, in person the paintings have a glowing quality, which, in conjunction with their angularity and shifting planes, suggests a relationship to the backlit screens of smartphones and tablets.

[...] With her rigorous dedication to formalist concerns, Parlour channels the Abstract Expressionists and Minimalists of '50s and '60s. She's a big fan of that generation of artists, in particular Frank Stella, Robert Ryman, and Robert Mangold. Indeed, those painters provide helpful touchstones for her own work, which is deceptively simple and minimal, especially for the layman.

In addition to her painting practice, Parlour is also a scholar. She completed her Ph.D. in Art at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2014, and wrote a dense, 188-page thesis on the relationship between syntax and abstraction in contemporary art, citing the aforementioned painters, as well as artists like Jonathan Lasker, Donald Judd, and Wade Guyton, among many others.

[...] "Selma's brilliant in terms of talking about the relationship between painting and the academic approaches to it," says Sacha Craddock, who curated the show. "That's very unusual. I've always found that academics make really bad work because they talk too well about it. She's an exception to that rule." Craddock, who also curated last year's Turner Prize exhibition, met Parlour through the 2011 "New Contemporaries" show, an annual exhibition of the best work coming out of art schools, for which Craddock is both the chair and head of the selection process. "I remember thinking how intelligent it seemed," notes Craddock. "When I looked at her work it wasn't that I was thinking about her relationship to the history of painting—that came later. I just saw a very interesting use of the shallowness of space that lent it an associative, illusory possibility, and a sustained relationship to abstraction that wasn't absolutely about the rigors of abstraction."– Taylor DaFoe, 'Rising Star Selma Parlour Refreshes Abstract Painting With a Brainy Take on Space', Artnet News, New York, 5th February 2018



In the dark days of January, white cube galleries are luminous spaces. This is especially true of Pi Artworks right now: the Fitzrovia gallery is showing an incandescent array of 23 paintings by Selma Parlour. Taken in at once and at first sight, her abstract works arrest the eye with unlikely chords of colour and angular planes that suggest competing vanishing points. This is a show that releases both dopamine and mild anxiety, thanks to the pleasure of the warm hues, and the stress caused by an indeterminate focal point.

The London-based painter has laid claim to a palette of lively yet soft colours in which gray-mauve and burnt ochre both stand out. Further striking moments are provided by electric blues, a deep turquoise and a treacle-like golden yellow. Just a stone's throw away on Oxford Street, the shop-window dressers offer less incongruous pleasures. You might conclude that Parlour's colours are neither fashionable nor seasonal. As a serious painter, it must take effort to avoid being either.


Detail Shots (2017) oil on linen, 30cm x 23cm - Installation view, Pi Artworks 2018


And so Upright Animal, as the show is called, occupies a pocket outside of time and the outside of populism. Parlour uses delicate, hardly photogenic films of oil on linen. Her planes of colour are either devoid of texture or, at best, smoky around the edges. Colours come up against one another in moments of drama, and their difference is underscored by clinical borders, often made with tape, often so dark they look like an incision has been made in the linen ground.

What are these shapes? They enter the field of vision like a featureless columnade by de Chirico, or the receding walls of a garden in an otherwise blank early Renaissance landscape, designed to show off the artist's grasp of perspective. But any sense of architectural coherence is complicated by the differing agendas of her various visual forms. The whole show is characterised by painterly humour: visual jokes, in other words, that painters may find more amusing than non-painters.

With their lack of detail and their frustrating sense of depth, it is still hard not to read these planar works as landscapes. They also bring to mind aerial photography, a god's eye viewpoint that is now universal, thanks to Google and drone footage. These could be deserts seen from the air, compounds in which the inhabitants have gone to ground, remote hideouts haunted by death from above. The works in the show's eponymous series (Upright Animal I and Upright Animal II) certainly imply as much. They are black and white, featureless, and somewhat ominous.

However, many other moods are generated. Invented Vocabulary compiles five works of modest size which lure the eye into a tessellated puzzle of rich colours that recall more innocent forms of travel: a vacation with beach yellow and sky blue. But with a predominance of greys and ochres, all of this really amounts to a series of chess moves in which Parlour makes works that advance the ambit of abstract painting, and which move slowly into previously unoccupied territories of colour and form.

But taken together, all these works do indeed form a landscape: an inner landscape which Parlour lets you glimpse but never fully apprehend. Ten smaller works, a series called Detail Shot, are clustered together. Nowhere do her paintings suggest windows so clearly. Nowhere do they frustrate the intuition so blatantly. The forms fail to interlock and the colours don't match. This proliferation of vistas defies the viewer to apprehend any kind of overarching logic.

Detail Shot is also notable for its use of colour. It offers some of the most pleasing juxtapositions in the show: mint with brown, mauve with tan, gold with blue, lilac with aubergine. But given Parlour's interest in limits, the colours appear secondary to the form. They are mere entities for delimitation. This show is all about the angular borders which slice up these delectable colours. In places these ridge like lines suggest architraves: a classical quotation that resists abstraction and connects this show, once again, to the history of art.

Parlour is a cerebral painter, with a PhD from Goldsmiths. Her thesis was called Depicting Limits: Syntax, Abstraction and Space in Contemporary Painting. Her limits, borders and edges are the very focus of the works. But Parlour implies a proliferation of barriers off-camera too. None of her paintings are framed and the space which they generate, extends around the entire gallery, keeping this small, gemlike show in taut focus, giving us limits we must everywhere traverse. – Mark Sheerin, 'Selma Parlour: Upright Animal, Pi Artworks review - incandescent colurs', The Arts Desk, 18th January 2018



Selma Parlour has been exhibiting her rigorous yet alluring geometric abstractions for several years, and one was short-listed for the John Moores prize in 2016. This, the first solo show by a London artist in the four-year history of the prominent London and Istanbul-based gallery's Eastcastle Street space, is her biggest and most varied yet, with 23 paintings, all from 2017, ranging from 23 x 30cm to 222 x 160cm in size. All, however, retain Parlour's trademark vocabulary of geometric frames rendered through, in her words, "soft films of oil on linen" in which "the literal transparency of colour borrows from the white primer beneath so that the colour glows, as if lit from behind".

That colour has broadened considerably, with previously favoured pastel hues alternating with neon-bright swatches and black and white monochromes. These are the eponymous Upright Animal series, the three of which are sufficiently striking to make me wonder whether a pared-back, more austere show of just that series might have had maximum radical impact. Those 'humans' are, appropriately, the height of the artist stretching up, yet their title is initially puzzling, as they look neither human nor animalistic. Perhaps matters are not so simple… and, indeed, all of Parlour's paintings prove to enact a multiplicity of dialogues between opposing states, giving their would-be-straightforward geometries an unexpected dynamism.

The title 'Upright Animal' suggests how the organic shapes of biology lie behind the apparent purity of the geometry – how the mathematical truths of measurement and angles are here thanks to the human impulse of their creation. At first very little of the human is visible, but on closer inspection there are many signs of the artist's hand – in degrees of shading, playful acceptance of some accidental-looking effects, and the variable overlapping of veiled layers. Far from being mechanical, the transparency of Parlour's technique actually reveals the decision-making in her process.

Then there's the back and forth between abstract and figurative. Previously, Parlour's work has looked like paintings of paintings installed in ambiguous spaces – meta-painting of a sort. This body of work seems to have zoomed in on the frames of those paintings so that they look – somehow – both more representational and more abstract: more representational through the suggestion of such architectural details as mouldings or cornices; more abstract, as 'complete shapes', which could have indicated frames or computer screens, no longer appear, and painterly effects come to the surface. True, the mid-sized Invented Vocabulary series coalesce around triangles, but they don't have the natural figurative readings of rectangles. The smallest paintings, clustered together, are presented by title as Detail Shots. They – if paintings may be granted agency – seek to compensate for their small scale and limited fragments of form through burning fluorescence of colour. A sub-plot to that abstract-figurative ambiguity is how some edges are 'clean', as one suggested plane abuts another; while others are 'dirty', with smudges of what might be shading. Is the difference representational, indicating the depths of three dimensional planes? Or are those contrasts decided by what works in abstract terms?


Compile time IV (2017) oil on linen, 150cm x 160cm, private collection



As mention of both the layering of computer screens and the bevelling of wooden mouldings such as dado rails suggests, the chronological setting is also hard to pin down. There is a retro-futurist aesthetic which allows us to read the old (panelling, traditional framing – though Parlour doesn't frame her paintings), against the newer (more modern or brutalist architectural details or the online world seem equally present). So it is that, if computer graphics are hinted at, they are probably not the latest. They might rather be a throwback to the futures of former times as their look comes back into fashion.

Screen and architecture are, of course, very different spaces – and different again from the literal flatness allied to implied space of the painting itself. That may well be Parlour's primary to and fro – between the wall and the painting on it, the illusional space and its denial; between how the paintings read spatially if taken as abstract, or if as figurative. And then we have to consider that these painting of possible architectures are placed in a real architectural space with which they interact in turn…

There's also a back and forth between part and whole. Parlour's previous use of what could be images of full frames is now merely implied by what look like photographic crops of them. Complicating that, the Compile Time series are divided into sections of up to four parts, crisply enough to make me wonder whether they were conjoined sections. That turns out to be a faked move, but one which ratchets up the dialogue between part and whole. The paradoxical idea comes to mind that these paintings are details of themselves: rather as Magritte claimed "this is not a pipe", Parlour might be claiming, in an attractive contradiction, that "this is not a complete painting". As Andy Parkinson has put it "the hint at referential content is always self-referential, bringing us back to the painting itself". (1)

That paradoxical aspect is, I think, where Parlour is at her most original. The other ambiguities have been more widely explored, and are perhaps most notably exploited and subverted in recent practice by Tomma Abts, with whose work Parlour's has much in common. That said, Parlour explores and combines those concerns in her own way and with seductive intelligence. There is plenty here for eye and brain. – Paul Carey-Kent (2), 'Selma Parlour: Upright Animal', Saturation Point, 8th January 2018

(1) in Patterns That Connect, 2017
(2) with thanks to Clare Mitten and Emma Cousin for perceptive comments at the opening



'Selma Parlour', Pi Artworks, London

50-page monograph with essay by Sacha Craddock (below) and interview with Jessica Ziskind







Parlour's paintings carry colour without volume. Maintaining a relation to printmaking, the build-up is tonal, stained, almost as if in a photograph, with the sense of hands off as well as hands on. A layered levelling of colour, where the artist appears to have pulled the canvas, as if a shroud, out of liquid in a gesture of reversed negativity. Material is born from light, which attaches and embeds itself on the surface and, yet, something seems to permeate from behind. Paint, as material, has been banished from view to become a layered, thinned, subliminal notion. Diluted and dilated, it has long been absorbed into the thought process of the artist.

But artists need rules and Parlour maintains her own court and jury. Sticking to notions that produce effect, she repeats colour, makes corners with tone that are still shallow. She seems to find movement through walls impossible, and so there is no real pretence or illusion. You cannot see far or deep but sight is sent along its way, to pursue a mimicry of architectural exactitude. Light, like that in a painting by Fra Angelico on the wall of a cell in San Marco, Florence, shows structure or message, caught in the paint that remains. Narrative is orchestrated and speech flows not through but around the corner, and out into a particular architectural reality. But this is to do with touch, with the surface, with knowing that sense is never purely visual. The canvas flattens and brings touch together with unsighted glance.

Colour lies in an afterglow or in an echo of something seen more than once and remembered. Layers of colour pool at the literal edge. The quality of grey, blue or purple carries great intelligence, for it seems to have arrived in this world fixed and not worked out through any apparent process of mixing. Parlour's repetition of vision allows calm understanding rather than any anticipated experience. A range of associations must be indulged; the relation to print must be understood. How does the graphic quality of the 20th century transport itself to now? Where is this manifestation of information; is the actual vehicle the surface of a page, the publication laid open, perhaps, a book or magazine?

At this point, information on possible architectural detail – this could be the corner of a room, for instance – becomes abstract, pure and descriptive, at the same time. Parlour alludes to depth, with the sharp-edged distinction between the image of a notice board so subtle that the actual message is sunk into the place where it is held. A letter tucked into the shallow depth of braid, button and baize, is a formal element. Classic trompe l'oeil is about shallow space, the repository for idea and thought. Parlour allows, with finesse and attention, the tooth of the linen to become the actual beat of the moment and detail; she uses cross weave as pixelation. While sight knows and shifts, the grain of the surface resonates with an unconscious understanding.

One colour is able to sit next to another with the structured, fine barrier between. From Romanesque mural painting, across the apse of Sant Climent de Taüll (now in the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona), through to illuminated manuscript, the movement between freeze frames has the effect of an almost comic-book narrative, and an implication of a change of depth is achieved simply by colours sitting alongside each other. Here, the illusion is not in the barrier between the place at which one element comes to another, but in the colour, which is not logical either.

What a painting can achieve is a matter of dispute. For many, there is little that can be done with the thing itself; for others, it is capable and strong within its own language. Abstraction can be fascinating because a work can be further questioned, extended, embellished – and then also dismissed. Parlour has, through her fascination with installation and context, moved between asking the work to inhabit real space – in order to continue the metaphor, style, emphasis, and manner of a particular context – and expecting the work to provide its own place, architecture and context. The role of this fluidity in Parlour's work extends further than Rothko, for instance, aware of the fact that his paintings would be the main feature of an expensive restaurant, or Léger, who had planned a chapel all along. It is not what the paintings lend a place that Parlour is concerned about, but what they project onto it or draw back towards themselves.

Is there an ambiguity of scale; does that age-old support for abstract painting apply? Could it be a pond, lake or sea, seen from a mountain, hill or tussock? Is this a matter of fakery, of shallow scenery, which, in itself, implies layers of make up? We deal with proportion and focus, looking into either a doll's house, or a palace. Is the illusion closer to relief, to the fact that everything is relative rather than real? The vision can be prismatic, at times: the sense is of permutations of colour as well as perfunctory shifts in detail.

Could it be more, less, or none of that? Parlour uses arrows to tell you where to go next with the eye. A range of almost virtual signs is used. If you look into the shallow space, then bounce back out again, the corner and walls come away. In France, fabric is still used, on occasion, stretched over walls instead of wallpaper; do Parlour's painted walls on canvas arrive at the equivalent: a self-fulfilling prophecy? The boy with the Saxa salt holder pours salt on the tail of the bird, ad infinitum.

Flank II (2017) links to photography in terms of surface and glare. Echoes of blue and blue, both independent. Parlour makes clear that this is not free from invention: the lines seem rational, real even. It is all about knowing what you have here, reading the contradictions. A break in the painting, an arrow, suggests that the top section is, in its way, elsewhere. The reference, with a light ridge of fine graphic excellence, touches on the detail of a ceiling in a mid-Modern construction, perhaps, or more humble quarters a century earlier. Neither too decorative nor over-elaborate, the positioning is, rather, perfect, as it apportions out space. – Copyright Sacha Craddock, December 2017



Flank II (2017) oil on linen, 86.5cm x 86.5cm





'Make a Mark', Barry Bliss, July 2017

In memory of Gerda Taro, Barry Bliss photographs 30 women painters with a Leica II camera


As a woman, I am on the back foot. As a painter, I am too late. And so the story goes. – SP







[The area of cadmium yellow in Eleventh hour squared III] could describe a section of wall above what could be read as a window, or rather the top left corner of a window, or maybe instead, a quadrant of a pyramid in bird's eye view. Alternatively, it's a yellow truncated triangle in an arrangement of coloured geometric or architectural shapes on a flat surface. Reading Eleventh Hour Squared III, (2016), as a flat surface becomes more difficult the more that shadows are perceived and the more the luminous blue square is perceived as sky through a window pane flanked by a brown frame, the primary image that I keep settling upon, until the pyramid reasserts itself. But then I am puzzled by the sense of this being a corner or a quadrant. In what context might one see only this part of either a pyramid or a window? Photography comes to mind, the camera frame characteristically cropping objects in this way. And there is something about the colour quality, thinly applied hues, with the white surface behind giving them brilliance, which is reminiscent of a photograph or a computer screen. The paint application, transparent films of oil paint, with no visible traces of the artist's toil, also lends itself to this interpretation. If photography is "drawing with light", then Parlour's paintings are closely akin to photography. However, they are ultimately abstract because figurative interpretations, like the ones suggested above never  quite  work enough  to arrive at definite  conclusions.

Eleventh hour squared III (2016) oil on linen, 41cm x 41cm, private collection



What might have been perceived as a window frame probably works best if seen as a picture of a painting, this one. Similarly in Cloud II, (2017), although there is more of a depicted space, a kind of stage within which objects are situated, the objects are like paintings within a painting. In Parlour's work it is as if the hint at referential content is always self-referential, always bringing us back to the painting itself. There may also be references to the history of abstraction, specifically post-painterly abstraction, or colour field painting, if not in the scale of the works, then in the artist's choice of technique, in which the method of production is hidden by the method of production itself, the labour painted out or sublimated. – Andy Parkinson, 'Nine Painters, Syson Gallery, Nottingham', Patterns that Connect, 26th April 2017



On entering this year’s prize, we are met with a small but powerful painting, One, The Side-ness of In-Out by Selma Parlour, dominated by architectural language. Parlour presents an ambiguous, graphic scene that could be interpreted as looking through a segmented frame. Formally it is reminiscent of skirting boards and cornicing, suggesting diverse origins such as Victorian architecture and modern high rise buildings. Shapes are very clearly delineated in a limited, bold colour palette, with little evidence of brushstrokes, with a smooth, flat surface through layers of glaze.  This smooth exterior contributes to the ambiguity in the work, as we are left wondering if the frame is a window, and how are we positioned in relation to it –  is it a room or gallery, a street or square? – Jenny Steele, 'John Moores Painting Prize 2016', A-N, 30th September 2016




One, The Side-ness of In-Out (2015) oil on linen, 61cm x 51cm, private collection






[...] Selma Parlour's oil painting 'One, the Sideness of In-Out', 2015, painted on linen, also echoes the surrealists: Magritte's Strange interiors; Chirico's blue/orange contrasts, for example. It is fairly uncomfortable to look at, being small and a bit cluttered and it engages the analytical mind [...] in a futile attempt to make sense of our perception: the mismatching sides, the folding in at the bottom right hand side; the in-outness. Our edgy attempt to impose perceptual equanimity is hereby challenged. – Sandra Gibson, 'John Moores Painting Prize 2016', Nerve Magazine, 27th August 2016



'John Moores Painting Prize 2016', National Museums Liverpool, July 2016

Essay by Richard Davey



[...] Parlour begins with colour, her use of thin, transparent glazes allowing the woven surface of the canvas to remain visible, whilst giving the work an inner translucent glow. The division of the canvas horizontally creates an horizon line to suggest distance and space. This sense of depth is reinforced by the shadowy smudge that shades each of her lines. Along the top and right hand edges a broad blue frame holds the space in and flattens it out, creating the impression of a painting within a painting. But the frame is incomplete, and the two diagonal lines that terminate each side converge towards a vanishing point, turning the frame into a proscenium arch and the painting into a stage. The actors on this stage, or the subjects of this painting, are two four-sided shapes: a trapezium, whose converging sides draw the eye in, and a quadrilateral, which seems to fold over towards the viewer. The trapezium appears flat, the quadrilateral freestanding and solid. They reinforce the sense of three-dimensional space, but they also disrupt it. The blue frame suggests we are looking at the space head on, yet the trapezium only reads as a painting on a wall if we imagine ourselves looking down on it from above. The quadrilateral doesn't really work from either of these positions. Parlour's pictorial space is impossible. It breaks all the rules and confounds all expectations, demanding to be read from multiple perspectives rather than a single viewpoint. – Richard Davey




Selma Parlour’s haunted paintings hover with retinal disparity across the space. The luminous synchronicity, in this case, operates through our intrusion into a private world, where a parallel dimension may exist. The colour shifts in the multiple framing of each composition are exact, and build a system that is modulated through the tonal colour bleeds. In One for each eye IV, each successive colour - cobalt violet, manganese blue, viridian green and brown/ochre - alter the perception of the retinal spatialisation. Here the space between the eyes, which allows binocular vision (the angle from which each eye views an object) creates the imperfect match with its counterpart, a yellow multi-toned field of colour. These paintings are shimmering, intense objects, and their emptiness allows the other works in the space to breathe. – Laurence Noga, ‘Kaleiodscope at Fold Gallery, London’, Saturation Point, 21st August 2016



In delicate, precise paintings referencing iconic architectural geometries, Parlour's canvases are cosmic windows that compress time to merge the forms of present and past. – Cathryn Drake, 'For Love or Money', Artforum, 4th July 2015




One for each eye IV (2016) oil on linen, 76cm x 61cm




'100 Painters of Tomorrow', Thames and Hudson, London, September 2014

International competition and publication selected by Kurt Beers, Cecily Brown, Tony Godfrey, Yuko Hasegawa, Suzanne Hudson, Jacky Klein, Gregor Muir, Valeria Napoleone, Barry Schwabsky and Philip Tinari




It is a testament to the authority of the medium that sometimes the most minimal paintings are the most powerful. [...] Parlour draws upon a rich lineage of mimimalist art. [...] Her delicate, translucent painting offers a suggestion of a back-story for each work, tantalizing the viewer with withheld information. This notion is crucial for Parlour who considers illusion and the limitations of painting to be central themes in her work. [...] The simultaneous creation and negation of space are significant in Parlour's work. Through geometry and isolated two-dimensional forms, she crafts stage-like settings that mingle foreground and backgroud and imbue a sense of spatial confusion. Her interest lies in 'painting that questions its historical constraints to re-frame itself through invented vocabulary and abstract space'. However, her artificial spaces hold more than mere aesthetic interest; they are a means through which Parlour can emphasize the greater possibilities of painting as a tool for interrogation and communication. – Kurt Beers



The work in this show is quiet, contemplative and often very satisfying. Take Selma Parlour, for instance. Painted in thin washes of oil on linen, Room consists of a nest of squares flanked by trapeziums to create an illusion of depth, while acknowledging the flatness of the canvas. It allows the picture to be read as a flat surface, a box, a truncated pyramid or all three. The game is as old as painting itself, but Parlour's handling is perfect. A series of extremely subtle colours – mainly warm browns and soft greens plus the white of the ground – have been applied with the exactitude of an illuminator decorating a manuscript. The results are as pleasing as a perfect equation and the acronym QED (quod erat demonstrandum), usually appended to the proof of a theorem, would not be inappropriate. – Sarah Kent, 'Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011', The Arts Desk, 28th November 2011






Room (2010) oil on linen, 150cm x 163cm, Saatchi collection






© Selma Parlour 2020