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CRITIC'S CHOICE

REVIEW

The still-life paintings of Giorgio Morandi, with their studied arrangements of bottles, tins and vases, are often thought to conjure up architecture or to resemble Italian cityscapes.

But some of Morandi's subjects are more directly architectural, with scenes where a villa in Bologna or a barn in the countryside are reduced to their essence: a terracotta roof, a wedge of shadow, a gable wall baking in the sun. They have nothing to do with photorealism, for Morandi's brushmarks are always evident: the painted illusion and the way it's manufactured are held in balance.

Morandi comes to mind on seeing a beautiful show of paintings by Vicken Parsons in Stephen Marshall's Artist's House at the New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury.

Her works are even smaller than Morandi's (the one above is just 12 x 12cm, the largest no more than 21 x 25cm), so the sense of a visual experience being distilled is very pronounced.

But as Morandi did, Parsons works in series, with small variations from one piece to another. Her shades-of-grey palette is much like his, as is her economical (almost cursory) drawing and, at times, even her application of paint. Yet in these 18 modest oils she creates her own particular world.

In one group, Parsons watches how light falls in a corner of a room and how it steals across a wall. In another series, three freestanding planes define an outdoor space, with an opening onto the landscape at the end. This could be one of Barragán's courtyards, but without his polychromy; on the rare occasions colour does appear in these paintings (eg. a bar of orange in one near-abstract work), it really tells.

Parsons never totally obscures the wood and glass that she paints on, so those materials are integral to the overall effect. The glass pieces, partly painted on both sides and fixed 2cm proud of the wall, are especially subtle, with their various veilings and reections.

These paintings quietly urge you to slow down and concentrate; they cast a spell. In its architecture, the Artist's House already has a feeling of repose, which they reinforce.

They are on view there until 4 February and are worth quite a journey to see ( www. sculpture. uk. com).

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