The National Gallery of Jamaica deeply regrets the passing of the painter, sculptor and poet Michael Parchment on Tuesday, August 20, 2013.
Michael Parchment was born on August 13, 1957 to a Revival family and he lived in Seaview Gardens in Kingston for most of his adult life. Called by visions, he started painting in 1978 and had his first exhibition in 1983. He was a regular participant in the Festival Fine Arts Exhibition (later the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition), where he won many accolades, including Gold medals in 2006 and 2007. He regularly exhibited at Harmony Hall, the Mutual Gallery and the National Gallery of Jamaica in Jamaica, where he won the Tribute to Bob Marley Competition in 2005 with his relief panting No Woman Nuh Cry (2005). He was featured in the National Gallery’s Intuitives III exhibition in 2006. Parchment also exhibited internationally in the USA, Venezuala, England and Switzerland, and Canada and was recently featured in Contemporary Jamaican Art, Circa 1962/Circa 2012, which was staged on the occasion of Jamaica 50 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga near Toronto. He also self-published several volumes of his poetry, which had titles such as I Raged in Chains and The Inna Thoughts and Feelings of the Poet.
Michael Parchment was originally exclusively a painter, who produced elaborately patterned compositions painted with strong black outlines and bright enamel colours, but he started adding relief elements by layering jig-sawed plywood elements into his paintings sometime in the late 1990s and that quickly became his signature style. While he continued painting throughout his life, his experimentation with layered plywood evolved into three-dimensional assemblages that became increasingly complex and ambitious over time, such as his spectacular Slave Ship (2010).
Revival religion and the philosophy of Marcus Garvey were two major influences in Michael Parchment’s life and work and his depictions of Biblical subjects, Revival scenes and the history of transatlantic slavery were informed by a strong awareness of his own place in this cultural universe. He was a great admirer of Kapo and paid tribute to him, as an artist and Revival leader, in several of his works. This celebratory quality was also evident in his depictions of other aspects of Jamaican cultural life, such as his tributes to the achievements of Jamaican athletes or Bob Marley, but Parchment was also capable of biting social satire in works that presented tragicomic parables on the culture of “politricks” and donmanship, often using the popular culture personage of the Johncrow as the embodiment of trickery and deceit. Parchment’s preoccupation with social satire through popular culture references is perhaps best illustrated by the assemblage sculpture Death of a Don (2010), which not only referred to actual recent events in Jamaican society but also to a peculiar aspect of Jamaica’s folklore: rumours that have surfaced at various times in Jamaica’s modern history about sightings of a mysterious hearse manned by Johncrows, which usually started circulating at times of great social anxiety.
Tribute or satire, Michael Parchment’s work reflected a robust love of country and deep pride in his cultural heritage. He was an energetic and enthusiastic presence in the Jamaican art world and cut a striking figure at exhibition openings, always nattily dressed in African-style outfits. Mr Parchment had been ill since last year and was 56 years old at the time of his death. The Board and Staff of the National Gallery extend their sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Veerle Poupeye, Executive Director