Ello beautiful people! Welcome back to the second instalment of In conversation week this week I am interviewing Parys Gardener. I first found out about her art after one of my friends reposted her art work on their Instagram. I was so captivated by her unique art style because it provided a voice for black women by presenting us in a variety of lifestyles we live, showing we are all different and beautiful lifting us up and this is so important
1) What inspired you to enter art?
It was very much a natural progression for me, I’ve been making and designing things ever since I can remember. When I was little, about seven or eight I used to design and make a clothing line for my little brother and I, made completely out of sellotape and plastic bags so I think it’s something that’s always been a part of my life and I’ve just continued to build on ways to use my creativity to express myself.
2) How do you put yourself in your work?
I think that as a lot of other artists will tell you, self portraits are the worst! But sometimes they do need to be done lol.
I’m my day to day work I always aim to incorporate images that I would like to see and normalise images of black women in illustration and to give narratives that I identify with. I want to reclaim the voice of black women and other women of through normalising narratives of black women.
3) Who/what inspires you?
I’m massively inspired by the strength and the legacies of my grandparents, particularly my grandmothers who were part of the Windrush generation. The more I learn about their lives, the more I become inspired to work hard. I’m also extremely proud of my heritage and I find the theories surrounding cultural identity. Those themes are always subconsciously influencing my work.
Although as kind of a self proclaimed pop artist, I have to say that the things I see and hear around me are forever inspiring and influencing me, with things in popular culture like music, fashion and current events often inform my work.
4) Favourite quote?
I’m not sure if I have one quote in particular that I would call my favourite, although Jamaican Nanny sayings never fail to put a smile on my face.
5) What’s it like being a black woman in the art world?
This is a tough question as I very much feel like I’m still only just entering the art world. The only difficulties I think I’ve really faced so far probably comes from within the community, there’s a fair amount of people who still assume the only options for for young black Caribbean women are motherhood or law and thankfully that’s not the case! Although I do feel excited about how times are changing, women of colour from all different backgrounds are taking charge of their own voices in a massive way and I’m keen to be part of that movement.
6) Have you ever faced discrimination because of the industry you are in?
I probably wouldn’t label it as discrimination in so many words but I did butt heads with my fair share of tutors while I was studying. For the majority of my time there I believe I was one of, if not, at times the only non mixed black person in my year group. This at times made me feel unheard in certain situations, for example in one tutorial where I was talking through some initial ideas I had for my project surrounding my own cultural identity, being British Jamaican and hybridity and one tutor hastily suggested that I visit the national slavery museum in Liverpool.
Then in the following week, in a tutorial with a different tutor I was asked with just as much enthusiasm if I had seen 12 Years a Slave, only for that tutor to then tell me that she herself hadn’t seen it. These particular altercations not only left me feeling massively disrespected and misunderstood but also like I was being pigeon holed not only as an artist but as a Black Brit too. There is so much more to our identities and our history than slavery, I think part of my calling is to explore and illustrate those narratives.
7) What do you hope your art will do for the world?
I hope that my work will not only reclaim the voices of Black women and other WoC (women of colour) but will inspire others to make women of all backgrounds the centre pieces of their own narratives.
8) Best comment you’ve received about your work?
I think the best comments I get are when people say they can really relate to the message I’m trying to convey, and it sparks a conversation about a topic whether it be on social media or in person.
10) What is the main message behind your work?
My work aims to reclaim the voice of black women through representations which sometimes question and challenge expectation placed upon them. I also hope that my work will normalise the image of black women and other WoC being seen as active figures in a range of narratives.
11) Your favourite artists online?
In terms of practicing artists, I would have to say some of my main influencers Laura Callaghan (@lauracallaghanillustration), Sonia Boyce,
Nyanza D (@nyanzad_), Kei Maye (@kei_maye) and Camilla Ru (@thecamru). It’s not only the style and technique of these artists that inspire me but it’s seeing the work ethic and passion that these particular women have provides a welcome motivation at times when I’m finding things particularly challenging.
12) Where would you like to be in a year?
I would love to be able to have more of my work in print publications,there is just something so special about seeing your work in print. Also I’d like to have the confidence to open shop independently and do market stalls – I’m working on it!
13) Advice for aspiring artists?
Work on your stills. If you have the ideas and the skills to make them into a reality can always be learnt, what can’t be taught is new ideas.
14) Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t be so afraid to post on social media and don’t compare your journey to others!
15) If you could talk to your 10 year old self what would you say?
To keep going; continue to be outspoken and keep questioning everything. Cherish your elders because they will be your biggest inspirations in your life and when you get to year 8, keep clear of that Tesco own brand foundation!
16) What motivates you to continue your work?
Seeing that there is still a need for women and other marginalised groups to be the creators of our own representations and narratives.
17) Any artist pet peeves?
When people colour palms the same shade of brown as the back of hands but also when I myself make them palm colour I can never get it quite right!
18) Anything you’d like to add?
You can find some of my most up to recent work for a exciting new platform called kayleighdanielsdated.com which is due to launch this week! (2nd may)
Thank you Parys for taking part in this interview, your insight and input into the world of art is so inspiring! I want to know what your favourite kind of art is in the comment below, have a fab day guys! See you in next weeks blog post where I will be interviewing baker and food blogger Eat with Arli!
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