Janette Parris is a British contemporary artist whose practice spans many forms including, TV Soaps, musicals, cartoons, illustrations and comic books. She focuses on the idea of narrative through her work, using varying and different characters, often with a distinct sense of Britishness, as much of her work features around the characters and personalities that can be seen around Peckham and other rapidly changing areas of London. In fact, many of Parris’ works are based upon conversations with working class people’s takes on modern life. Her narratives often express humour and propel the narratives forward through her unique, dry sense of character-driven comedy.
In many of her short cartoon films, she uses characters which are connected in some way to the art world, using them as a conduit for a satire of the hypocrisies that exist in the exceedingly commercialised art market. For example, in one of Parris’ short cartoons, ‘Fred’s’, two characters seemingly disconnected with the art world in the sense that neither of them worked in that field, discussed the fantastic opportunities of the free gallery openings, and the difficulties of the art market in an increasingly commodity focused market. This humour is effective in a subtle way, as we laugh about the exploits of the gentleman trying to get into exclusive events with free drinks sometime on offer, as he sits in a dingy cafe, the opposite of the glamour that is supposed to follow the monied art world around. Paris, through humour, brilliantly reveals the societal inequalities experienced by those who are baffled and detracted by the art world’s confusing, and often elitist intricacies.
Perhaps one of Parris’ most successful projects, was her creation of the ‘Arch Comic’. The formation of this comic began after Parris interviewed members of a Resident’s Centre, and through these conversations she was inspired to create a satirical comic which had the tone of a shallow celebrity magazine. The simplified style of illustration is incredibly engaging, it has the textured form of drawing, yet through block colour and pared back lines has a seemingly digital element, which appears ever relevant as Parris lifts the language of the internet not only onto itself through the subsequent issues of Arch Comic published, but also into the physically present form of the printed page. These later editions of Arch magazine focused upon the humour found in the hypocrisies of the contemporary art world and its growing commercialisation.
I believe Parris’ work is engaging as it uses satire and humour to present serious issues surrounding the commodification and gentrification of London, as well as the commercialisation of the London art scene. I am interested in here use of narrative, and how her cartoons and short films, unfold slowly, dry in their humour, yet still capture the audience into following their narratives which may or may not be of importance to the wider societal points Parris is trying to make. I like the ability of her characters to talk about nothing, or seemingly nothing, then jump straight in to talking about something so biting and relevant that the viewer is lulled into dull conversation then brought out of it suddenly, in a odd yet interesting rhythm which captures my imagination.