Daisy Parris on playing with language, the power of energy in her works and the weirdness of existing
Daisy Parris is a natural maker. From paintings, prints and drawings to making patches, stickers, postcards, zines and producing t-shirts, her artwork is very much based in a DIY ethic. Parris is also founder of the “Two Eyes Club”, the “Ugly Bitch Club” and the recently designed “Body Club”, clubs she founded in reaction to not feeling part of something. “The thing is, I’m the only member in these clubs anyway, they’re all fantasy, but they give me a strength because if you’ve got a club, then it’s like you’ve got a whole army behind you.” Daisy remarks. She’s been creating clubs, distorted portraits that aren’t figurative in any sense, and depicting sculptures as paintings since graduating from Goldsmiths University in 2014, when her investigations in texture and space started. We got in touch with the artist to talk about her play with language, the power of energy in her works and the weirdness of existing.
Daisy Parris (b. 1993, Kent, UK) undertook a Foundation diploma at UCA Rochester, and graduated in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University. She has exhibited at The Chopping Block Gallery, London; 301 Gallery, Massachusetts; Plan5, Stockholm; Cusp NYC, New York; Set Space, London, amongst others. She has been awarded the ASA Art School Alliance, Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg prize. Daisy is currently living and working in London.
Your grandmother and mother used to paint, and your sister is an illustrator. How much have their practices influenced yours?
My mum’s work from college is super punk. She had four kids, so I guess she had to stop, but her work from college is really precious to me. My sister got me into punk and art so that’s a huge influence. My grandmother painted beautiful landscapes in watercolours, my brother does graphics, my nan is an amazing knitter, my dad got me into music, and my great great grandfather was a painter too, so I guess creativity runs in the family.
You graduated at Goldsmiths in 2014, creating highly sculptural pieces that addressed colour and texture. How has your practice developed since graduating?
Lately, I’ve been referencing my work from university again, and looking back at my degree show. It’s become clear that I was always interested in texture and space; those investigations started at university, but now I’ve figured out a way of refining them, and realised I can be more subtle; I don’t have to use bright pink fur for example. I’ve become unapologetic about being a painter, and become more confident in my work, but I was so playful with sculpture at uni, I want to get that back.
Motifs and Processes
Stars and rocks are motifs you frequently use in your works. Are these symbols attached to any spiritual connotations?
To me, they are both symbols of the body, mind, history, and energy. A star is an energy and a rock is an energy just as a body is an energy. They all have a physical presence, but have energy and history beyond their physicality.
Are your works autobiographical? Do you consider these recurring symbols as self-portraits?
I guess it’s all about me in the sense that I live for art and painting. I’ve sort of detached from making my work too sentimental or directly related to me in hope that people can relate to it on a wider scale. At the same time, I’m completely open about some things in my painting, but I can view them in distance from my own self and in relation to other people.
Is there is a strong physical or violent element attached to the process of making your works?
Sometimes, I’m full of rage when I paint and other times I’m light and free. You can always fake it in painting though. Even if you’re not feeling anything you can relive emotion that you were feeling weeks before, and channel that into your painting, so it’s not necessarily always of the moment. The way I use a brush is sometimes quiet aggressive and violent but it’s always within the realm of pleasure.
“All history and energy is rooted in the landscape around us”
You made a series of distorted portraits that weren’t figurative in any sense, and seemed as close ups of bruises or blood marks. Did you think of them as an intersection between portraits and landscapes?
Yes totally! Nailed it. Even some of my portraits were self portraits but they’re faceless, they’re just an anonymous energy. I’m thinking about the existence of people in a world that’s strange. I don’t know, existing is weird. I sort of visualise people merging and melting into the earth, which is a symbolism of death I guess. All history and energy is rooted in the landscape around us, but is reliant on humans to tell the story of what happened within that landscape.
From paintings or drawings, to making patches, stickers, postcards or zines, you are interested in making works in a variety of forms and mediums. Can you explain your interest in all aspects of the production process? Are you developing your interests into experimenting with digital formats?
My work ethic is DIY. I’ve been brought up being into music, art, and band culture, so it’s natural for me to be interested in all of these things. My mum and sister used to make their own clothes, and all the bands I liked used to make their own merchandise, album covers, and books, so I guess that’s where my interest comes from. I just believe that I can do it all, and I like figuring stuff out along the way, and being in control of a project from start to finish. I just got Photoshop (haha), so I’m learning that, but I much more prefer to do things manually. Even my zines aren’t planned digitally, they’re curated on the photocopier as I go along, and then I hand bind them.
Your paintings habitually represents sculptures or installations. Why are you interested in depicting these 3D objects with the medium of painting, rather than just making them as sculptures?
I think it’s funny to paint sculptures. Obviously it’s a bigger conversation than that, painting as sculpture, and all that which is something I am interested in, but I struggle to trust my sculptures thats why I haven’t made any in years. I’ve made a few good ones, but the others seem empty. I trust myself more with paint. I guess, painting for me is more of a process whereas sculpture just ends up being an end product, and sometimes I don’t know how to access it on a deeper level. Through painting you can manipulate textures and colours and the narrative of an existing object even further. I guess you can put a status on a sculpture, but in terms of my own sculpture I really need it to have some deep energy and if it doesn’t, then I can’t trust it as a piece of work. I’m well interested in artefacts and historical objects, so ideally I want my sculptures to be artefacts or a hundred years old already, and then maybe I could trust them.
“I view words as physical, visual objects and as shapes, sometimes irrespective of their meaning”
You have mentioned previously that paintings words is a performative process for you. Can you develop this idea further?
I like playing with language, distorting the meaning of words, and altering text visually. I view words as physical, visual objects, and as shapes, sometimes irrespective of their meaning. Words have a shape and a texture, so I play with this a lot. As I touched upon earlier, you can perform in painting. With my “sorry” paintings it has become a sort of exaggeration of that emotion, almost to a point where it’s an empty sorry, which I find more funny than apologetic nowadays. The weight and context of words is interesting to me. Words without context are quite magical in the sense that they can become however extreme or subtle you want them to be, all at the same time. You could be sorry for being two minutes late or sorry for ruining someones life. (Haha) That sounds horrible but they’re two extremes that the word sorry can accommodate for.
Why are you interested in outlining or framing the canvas?
It helps me contain everything inside the frame. It’s a bit of a habit at the moment, but I also like to think that if the rest of the painting is stressing you out, then you can just look at the frame as a symbol of togetherness and structure to give you a break from all the chaos within.
Your use of layering and mark making is contrasted in the way that you use bulky chunks of paint along with very subtle paint marks that create a rubbed out pencil effect. Why are you interested in such contrasts within oil painting?
Contrasting paint is just so juicy. It draws me in. Creates vibrations, friction, and tension. I use it as a tool to create energy and momentum within painting.
Language is essential in your practice, often used in the form of separate words, questions or even answers. Your use of text is usually presented in a very personal and individual manner yet given these personal statements, are you concerned in addressing universal social or political issues?
Yeah, I think if you’re experiencing something on a personal level, people are definitely experiencing it on a universal level. Painting is helping me to address and come to terms with some of my concerns and worries about social and political issues, and start conversations about these topics.
The viewers are sometimes confronted to respond to the questions that your works ask, activating your pieces depending on their personal mood or feelings. Is this ambiguous element essential in your practice?
I like the idea that depending on the day, your answer to the question in the painting may change. For example, “Can Everyone Cope”; this is a really loaded heavy question. But I’ve only given the options of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ as answers. I’m aware that I have completely simplified the issue or topic, and it’s a much bigger conversation to have, in terms of politics, mental health issues, etc. but I’ve realised that sometimes these issues have to be simplified for a conversation to start about them. That’s my way into starting these conversations. Again, it’s like… can you cope with your work load or can you cope with your depression?. These things are both relevant, and I use painting as a way to ask if everyone is actually ok. Let’s start talking about it. You can use systematic, simplified questions and answers to begin addressing things on a deeper level, that’s the way in.
You mention you are interested in “turning sorry into a doing word”. Can you explain this idea further?
A genuine sorry should consume your whole body, it isn’t just a word, it’s a full body experience.
Your statements often address personal issues and feelings, such as “I like myself” “a cry for help” “empty” “lost” amongst others. Is your use of repetition of certain words a way of actually getting over these feelings and turn negative issues into positive ones? Is there a certain humour or irony attached to the repetition of these words?
I think painting is sometimes the only place I can put these feelings, and I’ve become unashamed and unapologetic about it. I definitely dwell on those feelings and repeat them, it does help me come to terms with them, and gain some strength. I guess it’s quite negative to always paint that sort of stuff, but I am quite a positive person in life. Painting is my outlet, and what’s the point in painting happy stuff when you could be starting a conversation about things that people are struggling with?
Collaborations and Future
Creating fantasy clubs is a fundamental aspect of your practice. From the “Two Eyes Club”, the “Ugly Bitch Club” or the recently designed “Body Club”, how important is the sense of belonging for you?
I just think that if you don’t feel part of something, then make something on your own that you do feel part of. My clubs are all inclusive of feminist, good energy, hard working people. At the same time, if you don’t feel included in my club just go make your own, that’s what’s good about clubs. The thing is, I’m the only member in these clubs anyway, they’re all fantasy really, but they give me a strength because if you’ve got a club, then it’s like you’ve got a whole army behind you.
Collaboration with other artists is essential in your practice. Could you explain further your collaborative works with artists Laurie Vincent and Katie Jordan?
Me and Laurie have been collaborating for a few years now. We met in college, and went on to share a studio together. We did a painting together one day at the studio, and it just clicked. Our styles work well together and the DIY work ethic is very important to us. Collaborating has allowed us to take risks in painting, and has allowed me to paint things that I would be scared of painting on my own. Me and Katie have been drawing and painting together since we met, it’s our go to happy place. We’ve both been painting and drawing room-scapes lately, so it seemed natural and inevitable to collaborate on some pieces together. I always end up being quite delicate in our collaborations, which is funny because I’m super heavy handed. It’s my dream that I could make work like Katie’s. I just look at it sometimes and I’m so just in awe.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions lined up?
This year is really busy already. I’ll be having a solo show in Peckham in March, and one in Lisbon in April, and will have some group shows dotted about in between. Laurie and me are also in the works of planning a show.
Words by Vanessa Murrell