Canan Tolon: Sidesteps

15 January - 16 March 2014

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.

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. A related programme of educational events at the gallery will include lectures, poetry readings, animation and storytelling workshops.


Parasol unit is grateful for the generous support of Berna and Tolga Tuglular, Mehves-Dalinc Ariburnu, Caroline Landin, the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism and those who wish to remain anonymous.