In the studio with Daisy Parris.

Words by

Alex Leav

In the studio with Daisy Parris.

Daisy Parris’s emotionally charged abstract paintings feel like pages ripped from a diary. They’re intimate, vulnerable, and revealing streams of consciousness - "entries" of thoughts and feelings about human relationships and experiences. Looking at them is provoking, slightly (and excitingly) voyeuristic. And, while extremely personal, they’re relatable and comforting.  
I spoke with the artist about their work; about painting as communication, about the scraps of canvas and chunks of language that punctuate their compositions, about writing. Admiringly, their answers were as honest and as open as their paintings. 

Daisy Parris, "All Things Bad" (2022). Oil paint and collaged canvas on canvas, 200 x 320 cm (78 3/4 x 126 in). Image courtesy of the artist and Sim Smith London.
Where did you grow up? Where do you think your interest in creating comes from? 

I grew up in Kent, England. I became obsessed with making art when I was a teenager. I think it comes from being in my own head and observing everything going on around me all the time. Expressing this visually became an important part of my daily life when I was young. I think it also is in my blood, as my family for generations has been creative. 


It’s interesting to me that you say that you’re 'in your own head.' It’s obvious in your paintings that you’re sorting through personal thoughts and emotions, but, at the same time, the work feels so free - almost the opposite of 'in one's head.' Does the act of painting help you to let go, to think less? 

The act of painting has definitely helped me learn how to communicate - initially by expressing myself emotionally but now also through the use of text in my work. There's something about expressing myself visually that does help me let go. I think constantly while I paint, but somehow when I start moving colour across the canvas, anxious thoughts in my head become resolved. At the same time, I also use text or poetry in my work, almost as a way in to start difficult conversations, which, in itself, gets me out of my head. 


Image courtesy of the artist and Sim Smith London.

I love the incorporation of text in your work. I find myself viewing the snippets of poetry like little easter eggs, sneak peeks into your soul and the soul of your paintings. Can you expand a bit upon your use of text? 

I've always kept journals of writing, observations, internal monologues, or poetry. The journal was always a place that I could be completely honest about how I was feeling or what was going on around me. Communicating through writing has always made sense to me and I've always known it was important to my practice, but I also never knew what to do with the writing I did. 

For the last couple of years, I've been looking back at some of the journals I've written over the last 10 years and certain sentences stood out to me. So, I began collating collections of the 'good writing'. I think now I am better at editing and knowing what to keep and what to throw away.  

First, I began writing the saved sentences on loose bits of paper. Some days I'd paint words directly onto the canvas, then one day this turned into painting words onto scraps of canvas strewn over the studio floor. Naturally, these scraps ended up being stuck onto paintings, almost likes notes or afterthoughts. The words have been through 3-4 rounds of editing. I love to use them as gestures or marks as well. I don't want the text to completely or entirely take over the painting, which is why it's often stuck in corners or the edges of the canvas. I just want it to be there as a train of thought, or something tangible to hold onto if you need a bit of guidance or reflection. 


For you, what constitutes ‘good writing?’ Or how do you parse through your journals and decide what is good (or worthy) of being stuck on to a painting versus what isn’t? I know that’s a really difficult question and it could just be a feeling or an intuition ...  

I'm really interested in playing around with the value of things. For example, placing value on things that are typically 'throwaway'. I like to do this with sentences. I think often the everyday or domestic can be quite mundane, but I find poetical moments hidden in everyday experiences. There's also some writing that at the time seemed passing or a casual observation, but upon reading back years later, has really struck something in me. I think 'good writing' evokes an emotion, memory, or sense of nostalgia. Or even just allows a moment of reflection on things that are fleeting. If I think about the words visually, or as a gesture then it helps me not get too self-conscious or overthink the text I'm putting in the painting. Some of it is so emotionally charged, that if I overthink it then it will never make it into the work. I'm trying to learn not to be too scared about sharing my writing with people. 

Daisy Parris, "Odd Shoes" (2021). Oil, acrylic, and collaged canvas on canvas, 150 x 130 cm (59 x 51 1/4 in). Image courtesy of the artist and Sim Smith London.


Would you agree that ‘good painting’ can be viewed the same? Evoking an emotion, memory, sense of nostalgia?

Definitely. Those are the paintings that affect me most when I'm in the room with them, or even when looking at them through a screen or in print. You can't fake emotion or integrity in painting. I also think you have to put in the work as a viewer to become in tune with or open to be being affected emotionally by a piece of art. 


Are there any writers or poets that you look up to? If so, who are they?  

I actually don't know too much about poetry or read that much. I love Dorothy Parker's poem 'Resume'. Music and lyrics are a great influence on me ... bands like The Replacements, Throwing Muses and Young Marble Giants. A lot of their lyrics are domestic and observational; they're like diaries of human existence.  

Image courtesy of the artist and Sim Smith London.


Similarly, any painters you want to mention?  

I love Blinky Palermo, Francis Bacon, Leon Golub, Frank Auerbach.


Lastly, what is it about the act of creating that you love?

I love working through emotions and solving problems when I'm creating. I love being surprised by the outcome. I love being surrounded by colour. I love everything about the act of painting, even when it's physically and emotionally demanding.

Daisy Parris, "I Will Always Ache When I Think Of You" (2022). Oil and collaged canvas on canvas, 75 x 40 cm (29 1/2 x 15 3/4 in). Image courtesy of the artist and Sim Smith London.
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Max Bainbridge