Michael Paraskos

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Michael Paraskos
Born 1969
Leeds, Yorkshire
Occupation Novelist, lecturer, art critic
Alma mater Canterbury College (B.A.), University of Leeds, and University of Nottingham (Phd.)
Period Contemporary
Genre Nonfiction, Metafiction, Satire


Michael Paraskos, FHEA, FRSA (born 1969) is a novelist, lecturer and writer on art, and is the son of the Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos. He has written several non-fiction and fiction books and essays, and articles on art, literature, culture and politics for various publications including Art Review, The Epoch Times and The Spectator magazine. In the past he has reviewed art exhibitions for BBC radio, curated exhibitions, and taught in universities and colleges in Britain and elsewhere. He has a particular focus on modern art, having published books on the art theorist Herbert Read, and he is also known for his theories connecting anarchism and modern art.[1] He lives in West Norwood in south London.

Education and employment[edit]

Paraskos was born in Leeds, Yorkshire. After attending a secondary modern school in Canterbury,[2] at the age of 16 Paraskos became a trainee butcher at a Keymarkets supermarket, but after six months of handling fresh meat left, becoming a lifelong vegetarian in the process, to return to formal education.[3] After studying for his university entrance examinations at Canterbury College of Technology, he went on to attend the University of Leeds and University of Nottingham, studying at Leeds under the novelist Rebecca Stott, and at Nottingham with Fintan Cullen where he gained his doctorate on the aesthetic theories of Herbert Read in 2005. In 1991 he established with Ben Read the New Leeds Arts Club, an art society in Leeds based on the original Leeds Arts Club (1903–1923), and became a committee member of the Leeds Art Collections Fund. After teaching at various colleges and universities, and for the WEA, Paraskos became head of Art History for Fine Art at the University of Hull from 1994 to 2000.

In 2000 he became Director of the Cornaro Institute in Larnaca, Cyprus, part of the Cyprus College of Art. There he oversaw the first accreditation of various art education programmes at the Institute, and helped to create a significant arts, education and cultural centre in Larnaca.[4]

After moving to London in 2014, he worked at SOAS, University of London until 2017, whilst also working as a lecturer at the City and Guilds of London Art School. As well as still teaching at the City and Guilds of London Art School, he is now head of adult education at Imperial College London.[5]

As a freelance reviewer of books and exhibitions, he has worked for The Spectator magazine, and the London edition of the Epoch Times newspaper. He has also reviewed art exhibitions for BBC Radio's Front Row programme, and SVT Television in Sweden, and appeared on Tariq Ali's political and cultural magazine programme, Rear Window, produced for TeleSur Television, as well as on various radio programmes for the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation.

From 2007 to 2008 he was Henry Moore Fellow in Sculpture Studies at the Henry Moore Foundation.[6] From 2009 to 2016 he was a member of the judging panel for the Marsh Award for Public Sculpture, an annual award organised by the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) for the best public sculpture of the year in Britain or Ireland.

As a writer he has published fiction and non-fiction extensively. His first fiction work, a novel entitled In Search of Sixpence, was published in 2016.[7] and his second, a satire on the American presidency, entitled Rabbitman, was published in 2017 following the election of Donald Trump.[8]

Anarchist Art Theory[edit]

Although he has never formally declared himself to be an anarchist, preferring instead the term syndicalist or co-operator[9] Paraskos's work has intellectual connections to anarchist ideas, and he has personal connections with anarchist circles.

In 2006 Paraskos wrote an article for the Cypriot art newspaper ArtCyprus entitled 'Portrait of the Artist as a Terrorist' in which he used the theories of Francesco de Sanctis to argue that art creates new realities by destroying old ones.[10] Although de Sanctis was not an anarchist, in Paraskos this statement, equating the creation of a new reality through the artistic destruction of an old one, seems to have sparked a particular interest in the relationship between anarchism and art. This was further developed in 2007 when Paraskos published an essay on his father, the artist Stass Paraskos and the painter Stelios Votsis, in which he argued that their series of collaborative paintings, begun when both artists had reached their 70s, represented a kind of 'anarchist commune' on the canvas. Notably Paraskos ended this essay, written in Greek and English, with the slogan, 'Ζήτω η αναρχική επανάσταση!' or 'Long live the anarchist revolution!'[11]

In 2008 Paraskos also edited a book of essays on the British anarchist art theorist Herbert Read for the anarchist publishing house the Freedom Press, and he has spoken at anarchist studies conferences in the UK. As this suggests, Paraskos's route into anarchism might have its origins in his earlier academic studies into Herbert Read, but in Paraskos's own work this interest has evolved into a theory of art in which a direct parallel is made between the anarchist desire to free the individual from society and what Paraskos claims is the artists' desire to be free from existing culture.

In effect Paraskos argues that a key strand of anarchist theory is that it is differentiated from other radical political doctrines in the way it rejects all forms of social or cultural conditioning. According to Paraskos, in the same way political anarchism tries to liberate the individual from the state, so art seeks to liberate the individual from culture. In this theory, culture is seen as something imposed on people, undermining their individuality, whereas art is an expression of that individuality emerging from a direct engagement by a particular person at a particular time with the world as a physical and material entity.

Consequently for Paraskos the notion of artistic transcendence which seems to underpin his earlier understanding of art is also a transcendence of culture, in the same way that a political anarchist seeks to transcend imposed society, or the state. Indeed, speaking at the Anarchist Studies Conference at the University of Loughborough in September 2012 Paraskos described culture as a form of the state. Using an analogy of society and culture being like a bus he argued that whilst most political doctrines, including Marxism, only want to change the driver of the bus, only anarchism wants to help the passengers to get off the bus.[12] This new development in what has been called the New Aesthetics movement, is also evident in the writings of Paraskos's long term collaborator, the artist Clive Head, who has begun to write of art's ability to "terrorise culture".[13] Its most recent expression by Paraskos was in an article for the British art magazine The Jackdaw, entitled 'Anarchy in the UK' in 2013.[14]

Fiction and non-fiction books[edit]

Michael Paraskos is the author of a number of non-fiction books on art. These include Herbert Read: Art and Idealism (2014) in which he explores the ideas of the British anarchist art theorist Herbert Read and Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (2015), a collection of four lectures turned into essays. He has also written monographs on the British artists Steve Whitehead (2007) and Clive Head (2010). He has edited books by and on Herbert Read and other subjects, and is the author of one work of fiction, In Search of Sixpence (2016). This book is a semi-fictionlised account of the life and death of Paraskos's father, Stass Paraskos, who died in 2014, but it is combined with a Chandleresque detective story and other elements. Real life figures are also woven into the book, including Ezra Pound and Mariella Frostrup. These elements, which undermine the division between fiction and non-fiction writing, form what Paraskos has described as a kind of disruptive anarchist literature, although the subject matter of the book is not overtly concerned with political anarchism.

A feature of both Paraskos's fiction and non-fiction writing is the place of the author in the writing. This is clear in the personal elements of his novel, In Search of Sixpence, where Paraskos is a character in his own novel, but in his non-fiction writings on Herbert Read, Steve Whitehead and Clive Head Paraskos also frequently refers to himself and uses personal anecdotes that have the effect of personalising the texts and rooting them in Paraskos's own experiences. His second novel, a satirical fiction based on an imagined Donald Trump-like president, who also happens to be a rabbit, entitled Rabbitman, was published in 2017.

Lists of publications[edit]

Books by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • The Anarchists/Οι Αναρχικοί (Nicosia: Εν Τύποις, Βουλα Κοκκινου Λτδ, 2007)
  • Steve Whitehead (London: Orage Press, 2007)
  • Re-Reading Read: New Views on Herbert Read [editor] (London: Freedom Press, 2007)
  • The Aphorisms of Irsee [with Clive Head]) (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • The Table Top Schools of Art (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • Is Your Artwork Really Necessary? (London: Orage Press, 2008)
  • Clive Head (London: Lund Humphries, 2010)
  • Regeneration (London: Orage Press, 2010)
  • Herbert Read: Art and Idealism (London: Orage Press, 2014)
  • Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (London: Orage Press, 2015)
  • In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Fiction, 2016)
  • Rabbitman (London: Friction Fiction, 2017)

Books including chapters by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • New introduction to Herbert Read, To Hell with Culture (London, Routledge 2002)
  • 'Herbert Read' in Chris Murray (ed.), Key Thinkers on Art (London, Routledge, 2002)
  • New introduction to Herbert Read, Naked Warriors (London, Imperial War Museum Publications, 2003)
  • Various entries for Antonia Bostrom (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Sculpture (London, Routledge, 2003)
  • 'The Prick of Conscience Leatherette Sofa', in Pippa Hale (ed.), Pipa Hale at the Patrick Studios, Leeds (Leeds: ESA, 2005)
  • 'The Curse of King Bomba: Or How Marxism Stole Modernism,' in Hana Babayradova and Jiri Havilcek (eds.), Spiritualita (Brno: Masaryk University Press, 2006)
  • 'Herbert Read and Ford Madox Ford', in Paul Skinner (ed.) International Ford Madox Ford Studies vol. 6 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2007)
  • 'ME THN EYKAIPIA', in Ludmila Fidlerova and Barbora Svatkova (eds.), Mimochodem (By the Way), (Brno: Masaryk University Press, 2009)
  • Various entries for Ingrid Roscoe (ed.), The Biographical Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660–1851 (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009)
  • 'Bringing into being: vivifying sculpture through touch' in Peter Dent (ed.) Sculpture and Touch (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014)

Reviews and discussion of work by Michael Paraskos[edit]

  • James Ker-Lindsay, Hubert Faustmann, The Government and Politics of Cyprus (New York: Peter Lang, 2008) p. 40, n.19
  • Carissa Honeywell, A British Anarchist Tradition: Herbert Read, Alex Comfort and Colin Ward (London: Continuum Publishing, 2011) p. 49f
  • David Goodway, Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow (London: PM Press, 2012) p. 350f
  • Pierluigi Sacco, review of Is Your Artwork Really Necessary? in Flash Art (Italian art magazine), no. 303, June 2012
  • Paul Cudenec, review of In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Fiction, 2017) [1]
  • Jordi Costa, 'La ficción en tiempos de inmediatez' in El Pais (Spanish newspaper), 28 August 2017 [2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Anarchist Studies Network Conference 2.0 'Making Connections'" (PDF). Anarchist-studies-network.org.uk. Retrieved 2017-01-18.
  2. ^ Theo Panayides, 'Sensitive, creative, heart on sleeve' in The Cyprus Mail (Cyprus newspaper), 8 April 2016 online
  3. ^ Michael Paraskos, In Search of Sixpence (London: Friction Press, 2016) p. 220
  4. ^ Michael Paraskos (ed.), Re-reading Read: New Views on Herbert Read (London: Freedom Press, 2007, p.219
  5. ^ "'Notes on Contributors'". Journal of Women's Studies. 44. 2015. ISSN 0049-7878.
  6. ^ Paul Skinner (ed.), Ford Madox Ford's Literary Contacts (Leiden: Brill, 2007) p.251
  7. ^ Michael Paraskos. In Search of Sixpence. Amazon.co.uk. ISBN 9780992924782. ASIN 0992924782.
  8. ^ Michael Paraskos. Rabbitman. Amazon.co.uk. ISBN 9780995713000. ASIN 0995713006.
  9. ^ Michael Paraskos, Four Essays on Art and Anarchism (London: Orage Press, 2015) p.8
  10. ^ Michael Paraskos, 'Portrait of the Artist as a Terrorist', in ArtCyprus, No. 1, Spring 2006, p.3
  11. ^ Michael ParaskosThe Anarchists/Οι Αναρχικοί (Nicosia: Βουλα Κοκκινου Λτδ, 2007)
  12. ^ Michael Paraskos, 'What would an anarchist Rembrandt look like', paper delivered to the Anarchist Studies Network Conference, University of Loughborough, September 2012, reproduced in English and Turkish translation in Sanat Dunyamiz (Turkish art magazine) no. 131, 2012, p.22f
  13. ^ Clive Head, From Victoria to Arcadia (London: Marlborough Fine Art, 2012)
  14. ^ "Dr Michael Paraskos, FRSA". Michaelparaskos.net. Retrieved 2017-01-18.

External links[edit]

Interviews with Michael Paraskos[edit]