As a term to describe women, “bird” doesn’t go over very well in these days of enlightened feminism. Having said that, there’s no denying that Parra‘s feminine figures have a touch of the avian about their features. So do the men, on the odd occasion that they appear. Parra’s use of bird-like faces is just one of the mechanisms that the Dutch post-pop minimalist uses to keep the viewer guessing on questions of identity. His figures are often turned away, have their faces tantalisingly hidden by tumbling locks of long hair, or are otherwise obscured by the actions of others as their bodies intertwine in an artistic version of Twister. Where they do appear, their uniformity creates a further sense of obfuscation.
Parra, aka Pieter Janssen, cut his teeth designing flyers and posters for music venues in Amsterdam, and he has retained a love of a bold delivery using a stripped back palette; blue figures, hair of jet black and fiery red, with occasional flashes of white. In Parra’s paintings (he also works in sculpture, video, music, fashion and skate art) the humour and vitality shines through, often in contrast to the downbeat textual messages he includes. The Alice gallery in Brussels is showing Parra’s latest collection Salut until 11 July.