At the age of 25, Daisy Parris has already taken the London art scene by storm. Guts Gallery visited her studio to talk about collaborations, identity and being a working-class artist in London's art world.
Why have you chosen art as a career?
It’s my life really and I couldn’t exist without it. I’m lucky to do it as a job right now.
A lot of your art focuses on gender and identity; why is this a particularly important topic for you to address in your work?
I make work about human experience and I have experienced a lot of gender-based inequality and queer based identity struggles in my personal life so naturally, it ends up in my work. I like to use my work as a place to try and figure out things, come to terms with things, process information and be critical of things that I’m struggling with and that is happening around me.
How would you define your work, ie. portraits and landscapes?
I haven’t painted portraits in years but they started becoming landscapes at one point. I’m very influenced by nature and absorb a lot of information when I walk to the studio every day. I saw the most amazing tree the other day where it’s bark had fallen off bit by bit and created the most delicious camouflage pattern. Nature’s full of man-made pattern sat next to the natural pattern. I think about this stuff a lot when I paint now. It’s where I get my colours and textures from; the sky at 6.03pm, faded yellow lines on a slick tarmac, the texture of a tree. I think I just do abstract stuff these days but it’s always about humans and existence.
Do you find it difficult to operate as a young artist in London in the current social and political climate?
I don’t know. I’m always gonna be operating no matter what’s happening around me.
If so, what are the sorts of barriers that you have had to, or are trying to overcome?
I’m more worried about other people right now - people’s mental health, how Brexit will affect everyone. It’s an important time to check up on how people are doing.
Would you ever consider leaving London?
I think about it all the time but it’s sort of got a hold on me and I’ve got an all right thing going at the moment with my little studio routine. And I think I sort of need the energy of London to thrive right now.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a series of large paintings. Just thinking about painting a lot and taking my time with it. And doing some drawings for a book with poet Chelsea Harlan for Montez Press. Just tryna consume every bit of information and surround myself with art and music and keep my head down and work.
You worked with Laurie Vincent (Slaves) on the exhibition, ‘Feels Like Forever Ago’, and also with Joy Miessi, is it important for you to collaborate with other artists?
I collaborated with Joy Miessi and Noiam Reiss on a painting and they were just masters at going straight onto the canvas and making such beautiful imagery. It was magic working with them. Laurie’s taught me a lot about working hard, taking risks and pushing the limits of what you think you know about painting. It’s super refreshing working with people. There’s nothing like it. It always reminds me to have fun and takes the pressure off. I always come back to my own work with new energy and fresh perspective.
You’ve recently started to design your own clothes, what were the reasons for this?
Was moving into the fashion side of things always an option for you?
I’ve always been interested in DIY and punk and making everything yourself. I’ve always had designs for t-shirts, patches, album covers, books, clubs, whatever sitting around. All sort of fantasies but with the potential to become something. Dregs Threads asked me to design some pieces for them and I think they’re pushing the limits of what clothing is “meant” to look like. Along with people like J.S Wright. They’re really making garments into works of art and bringing it back to DIY. Anyway so, of course, I said yes and took it as an opportunity to do some loose quite abstract drawings. Clothes are such an important part of identity aren’t they and they can be so political.
Rocks and stars are common themes used throughout a lot of your work, can you explain your reasons for including these in your work?
I like to think of the star as a body reaching out and trying to touch everything. Rocks are rich with history and violence. Both are vessels of energy.
Which artists are you currently inspired by?
Cody Tumblin, Cheyenne Julien, Dorothea Tanning.
'Institutions need to stop using token artists to make
it seem like they support the marginalised when behind the scenes they’re not doing much beyond that to support them'
Do there need to be changes implemented to further support working-class artists?
Things like making artists pay to enter ‘competitions’ or making artist pay for shipping and transport of work really sucks. Working class artists can’t survive like that. There’s this illusion that creative people are offered an opportunity when in fact we’re being exploited for our services because somehow there’s this mentality that creative people can work for free. Institutions need to stop using token artists to make it seem like they support the marginalised when behind the scenes they’re not doing much beyond that to support them.
What hardships have you encountered, if any, as a result of your working class background?
In terms of art, sometimes it’s just simple things like I can’t afford to mess up a painting. I have to get it right first time essentially cos I can’t afford to waste materials. Surviving is obviously my priority in life and being able to paint is a luxury. Painting has become integral to my survival so I will do whatever I need to do to be able to paint, but if I can’t afford paint or canvas then that’s it I won’t be able to paint. I have to be very economical with the work I make. It’s the most painful thing ever when I mess up painting and waste all those materials. Obviously experimenting and making mistakes is vital in the art so it’s a really big mental struggle to not feel guilty about that. The guilt of wasting things when you’ve been brought up to not waste anything because that’s all there is; food, water, electricity. Sometimes it’s a hindrance but often making do with what I’ve got has made some of my best work. I’m a few steps behind some people but that’s okay. I really deserve to be a full-time artist as much as anyone else. I can’t apply to or accept a lot of artistic opportunities like residencies or international shows etc that I’ve been offered because I literally can’t afford it. I have a very strong work ethic and I’ll get where I need to be regardless. I’m doing this all on my own and I think art institutions forget that a lot of artists are. Don’t want pity though. As long as I can get by enough to paint them I’m all good.
What can we expect to see from you in the near future?
Hopefully a couple of group shows coming up in May!
Edited by Ellie Pennick and Grace Goslin
21st March 2019
Photography by Viola Zichy