My favourite painting: Joanne Ooi

EA Festival founder Joanne Ooi picks a bold image that's a mix of acrylic, ink and oil paint on canvas.

Joanne Ooi on her choice, ‘A Story of Your Own (Interlaced Text)’ by José Parlá

‘I love this painting for its kinetic energy, the iconicity of José Parlá’s calligraphic “writing” and its urban patina, redolent of grit and age. Mr Parlá has termed his paintings palimpsests and that is what they are, layered diaries of his moods, locations and memories, erased and painted over repeatedly.

‘This painting is personally significant because it hung in my flat in Hong Kong, during the period that my art gallery introduced José to Asia by giving him his first exhibition.’

Joanne Ooi is the founder of EA Festival, an annual East Anglia-based culture festival.

Charlotte Mullins on José Parlá and ‘A Story of Your Own (Interlaced Text)’

José Parlá began as a graffiti artist in Miami before switching to canvas and becoming an internationally acclaimed painter. His large-scale works are palimpsests of marks that loop and whorl across surfaces textured like old walls.

In Interlaced Text, skeins of glue and gestural sweeps of red and ochre create a textural ground. Across the surface, black spray-painted tags and snatches of printed text are just visible beneath an explosion of white calligraphic brushstrokes that energetically stretch up and out.

Born in Miami to Cuban parents, Mr Parlá sees the walls of cities as holding our collective memories. They are the sites of past mark-making—advertisements, graffiti, signs—as well as bearing the wear and tear of each building’s past. His paintings often have surfaces that look like old walls, sometimes with plaster added that is then sanded down to recreate time-worn surfaces. His early interest in calligraphy and mapping overlays these and his work, he says, ‘is about the accumulation of information that settles like accretions upon the surfaces of cities throughout the world’.

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Mr Parlá has also painted many public murals across the world, including The Wrinkles of the City for the Havana Biennial in 2012. These incorporated black-and-white portraits of 25 senior citizens who remembered the Cuban revolution, over which he added his signature marks—part exuberant skeins of Pollock-like paint and part deconstructed script. The world is a complex place, his paintings and murals seem to say, and through them we can see glimpses of our volatile and interconnected past.

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