January 14, 2014 - Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art - Canan Tolon
January 14, 2014

Canan Tolon

Canan Tolon, Glitch II, 2007. Oil on canvas, 140 x 180 cm. Tim and Nancy Howes, private collection. Photo: Eli Ridgway.

Canan Tolon: Sidesteps
15 January–16 March 2014

Preview: 14 January 2014, 6:30–9pm

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
14 Wharf Road
London N1 7RW
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10am–6pm,
Sunday noon–5pm. Free admission.

T + 44 (0) 20 7490 7373
info [​at​] parasol-unit.org


Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is delighted to present a solo exhibition of works by Turkish-born artist Canan Tolon. This, her first major exhibition in a London institution, provides in-depth insight into her works from 1986 to the present day. It includes Futur imparfait, 1986–1999, a series of 33 ink-wash and crayon figurative drawings that were recently acquired by the British Museum. At Parasol unit they will be on show all together for the first time in the UK.

Apart from a short spell early in her artistic career when Tolon made works that were both personal and figurative, much of her creativity is process based and deals with space, time, gravity, and chance interactions between disparate materials. Her early interest in the marks left by the processes of growth and transformation over time led her, for example, to making works which in her own words are landscapes stripped to their elemental state. Her work on some of these early assemblages of man-made materials initiated some unusual techniques, such as applying coffee grounds or letting grass grow on a canvas, and processes with unpredictable outcomes; for instance, by allowing rust to occur naturally and mix with pigment in her paintings.

Space is the main subject of Canan Tolon’s work, especially in the way it is visualised, politicised, imagined and remembered. Always astute and elaborate, her technique for creating space may at first sight seem random, but is clearly the result of painstaking investigation, premeditation and control. A number of Tolon’s oil paintings are executed in black-and-white or mute colours with brighter touches. Whether large or small in scale, their form often suggests architectural imagery. Formally precise, rhythmic and structured, they are also simultaneously elusive, transient, accidental, and surprise viewers into reassessing what they see.

Tolon’s paintings are also informed by her own photographic experience and skill, though she uses no collage or printing techniques in their making. Rather, she works hands-on with tools, such as straight edges and knives, to produce an effect of ‘instant reality.’ This is particularly true of her works on Mylar, which at first glance look like photographic prints of something familiar, yet on closer examination the ‘photographic reality’ falls away and their illusionistic nature is revealed. Tolon’s aim is to make paintings that are apparently recognisable, yet elude description.

Born in Istanbul, Canan Tolon now lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area, California and in Istanbul.

This exhibition is curated by Ziba Ardalan, Founder/Director of Parasol unit.

Canan Tolon: Sidesteps is accompanied by a comprehensive book, including an artist interview by Ziba Ardalan and essays by Bill Berkson and John Yau, published by Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art. 

Related events:

Lecture: “Collections In Context by Dr Venetia Porter, Middle East Curator at the British Museum”
Monday 3 February 2014, 19h
Dr Venetia Porter will discuss the British Museum’s recent acquisition of Canan Tolon’s body of work Futur imparfait, within the wider context of the museum’s acquisitions of works by Turkish and other Middle Eastern artists. Venetia Porter is a curator responsible for the collections of Islamic art and of the modern and contemporary art of the Middle East.

Live: Bodyscape: “Screenings and Performance with JocJonJosch, Lawrence Lek and Ilona Sagar”
Friday 7 March 2014, 19h
An evening of screening and performance works exploring the relationship of the body to its environment. Parasol unit will showcase JocJonJosch’s new video installation from their “Head to Head” series; site-specific and interactive performance of Prosthetic Aesthetics by Lawrence Lek; and screening and performance from Ilona Sagar’s series “Human Factors.”

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, founded in December 2004, is a registered educational and a non-profit institution that operates purely for public benefit. The foundation curates four shows each year by international contemporary artists working in various media, and stages a number of annual artistic projects. Each exhibition is accompanied by a broad range of educational events, including a combination of talks, film, poetry, performance, family workshops and symposia.


Canan Tolon at Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art
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