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, Turkey.

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.

Canan Tolon was born in Istanbul and grew up in various European countries. After earning her baccalauréat from the École Française d’Istanbul in Turkey, in 1975, she studied design in Edinburgh and London. In 1980, she received a BA from Middlesex Polytechnic / Architectural Association, London, and that same year moved to the Bay Area of San Francisco to study for a Masters in Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley. After graduating in 1983 she worked for about ten years in several architecture offices while continuing her work in the visual arts. Her paintings and installations have been exhibited internationally. She has works in a number of major public collections, including the British Museum, London; Istanbul Modern; IKSV (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and the Arts); the Nesrin Esirtgen Collection, Istanbul, Turkey; and the di Rosa Collection, Napa, USA.