Janette Parris

And we are back again with the Wednesday artist talks. This week, I have to admit, was quite relaxing, as I didn’t have to speed walk half way across campus in order to get in the room! Today we had a talk from Janette Parris, who was described to us in our emails as;

a contemporary artist who uses the everyday as the basis for much of her work. She works across different media including: drawing, animation, and performance (musical and theatre). She creates strongly narrative work, often in the form of comic strips to capture the humorous essence of life, while reflecting a dry and self-effacing look at the world.

Source: weekly art emails, quoted from artreview.com

She was also described as;

‘The London-born, Goldsmiths-trained ex-painter has been transforming galleries into comfortable interiors where visitors can relax and watch her fun-sized soap operas. Each of these 5 to 10 minute episodes pairs an actor with a doll in a one-way conversation taken from their secret affair, divorce or first date. Both funny and ridiculous they also imply a ‘me’ society where self-indulgence has spoiled communication. ‘Bite Yer Tongue’ is a hand-written record of incidents in which the artist’s polite, tactful replies to disappointments and humiliations contrast with the cutting remarks she thinks but doesn’t say. Each tale of bottled-up anger ends with junk food eaten to make up for missed satisfaction. Parris also draws cartoons of ‘Plank’, a piece of wood in search of a personality. ‘Plank’ turns up as a misfit in various everyday scenes and could describe the feeling of being an outsider.This timely storyteller with her family of dysfunctional characters will amuse and provoke wherever she shows’.

Source: weekly art emails, quoted from peckhamplatform.com

Janette described herself to us as a multidisciplinary visual artists who works in multiple medium including cartoon, film and comics. She described some of her themes as those of learning, and the perception of success and failure. As we saw throughout the talk, her artwork often took the form of narrative in the form of comic strips. Plank was one of these. She uses a drawing tablet (one of those that plugs into the computer) and uses Illustrator and other software in order to create her animations.

Bite Yer Tongue is not a form of comic strip, and yet is still a form of Janette’s narrative. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any examples online of these really quite funny texts, but if I do find any in the future, I will be sure to let you know! The series of pieces that make up Bite Yer Tongue also looked at topics that aren’t often talked about.These not only were interesting to read, but also took the reader on a meaningful journey, before bringing them back down to earth by mentioning food, like a tub of Häagen-Dazs (admittedly making it even more comical).

Janette looked at even more mediums and adventured her way into sitcom. She mentioned that she wanted to make something longer and with more depth and detail to it. This led to the invention of Fred’s – a very simplistic animation with muffled speech and plenty of background noise to mimic the café. Some of the things that the characters talked about in the small clip that we were able to see included;

  • ‘… made gatecrashing an art form…’
  • ‘… art on display is rubbish…’
  • Talks about art like it is the weather – very casually and without much thought. It is just a conversation starter and a space filler.
  • The stereotypical art collector art art dealer looks and mistaking artists for interior designers (move the furniture so it is messy in order to make art).

These made me think about what people outside the art community thought about art and how also they viewed it, especially art movements such as confessional art and contemporary art. However, before I could think too deeply into this, we were whisked into the world of musicals.

Janette decided to create a musical. If You Love Me. (As soon as I heard this title, I have to admit that I immediately thought of Beyoncé’s song ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’.) This is more of a simple piecing together of a musical as she only wrote the narrative, but used popular songs to break it up. The story-line is about six graduates with a love triangle in the middle. Janette, I am happy to say, did go on to write her own songs for her later musicals.

What came next was Arch Comic. This was developed at the end of a Cocheme Fellowship based in Byam Shaw School of Art. Janette had this as the beginning of ‘socially engaged’ comics involving interviewing the local people. The inspiration was drawn from Harvey Peaker in American Splinter who wrote comics and got famous American artists to do the drawing for him. Janette also mentioned that for her it is a cross between Hello magazine and the Daily Mash (online).

‘1940’s high birth rate due to nothing on TV’

She deliberately used simplified drawing, for reasons that I cannot remember. For me, the simplified drawings allows the readers attention to drift towards the heading and not to get distracted from the information at hand. The headlines were also often one-liners with minimal text used on the rest of the page. This again, would help attention and decrease distraction.

Based on the Arch Comics, Janette started an online comic in which she asked all her arty friends to help. It was £50 to sponsor an edition, for a portrait and you would be on the front cover (please don’t quote me on that as the information is from memory. Please see the website for details). These, like the physical copies, were often comical but raise very important points. I managed to get a hard copy of an online edition (see photos at the end of the post) which is always very exciting, especially as it is the 2014 exclusive edition.

After this, Janette returned to animated sitcom while specifically looking at the reference of failure, aptly named Talent. Within this, there is the direct references to comedy, sitcom and stand-up comedy. This was shown in Rude Britannia in the Tate.

As a small side note, video ringtones were made by Janette herself. She mentioned that rather than continually use songs, she decided to learn to play the guitar, to allow to make up more of her own songs. The very first one was a rendition of Wonderwall by Oasis, however this project allowed her to lead on to the next one.

Songs In The Key Of Real Life. These were live performance as part of The Art Party Conference 2013 in Scarborough. Here, the guitar was played and she wrote original protest songs and performed live herself. These songs as well were very site specific, with one that was written about location of Deptford X Festival 2014. Many people, rather funnily, thought that the band were religious and so clearly did not listen to the lyrics.

Janette was also using site specific artworks and songs in the Museums at Night exhibition 2014. This was a live performance musical using artefacts in the museum for the songs content. It was interesting in the way that they did the exhibition because instead of the artefacts, you were faced with an artists interpretation of the artefact.

Lastly, Broadway Stories is another site specific artwork, this time in the form of an animation. Janette curated the show but also made this animation about the thoughts (of the exhibition) from the local people on the nearly high street.

Overall, Janette Parris is a very interesting character with lots to say and many mediums of artwork to say it in.

Source: a printed version  of the exclusive edition September 2014 (which is now mine)

Additional sources: Vimeotrucearts.org

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