In association with the Royal Academy of Arts

Richard Parry's Elephant Series

Last year's Converse Emerging Artists Award winner on showing art from Kenyan baby elephants in a flat in Brockley

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The British artist Richard Parry gently handles irony to cast a satirical shadow with his work. His pieces often take a sardonic message and work in a sense of humour to produce art that belies their depth of meaning. After winning our Converse/Dazed 2011 Emerging Artists Award, Parry has continued to work within the boundaries of conceptual art which questions contemporary culture and the world around us.

I recruited some baby elephants to help me do an art commission; outsourced the fabrication of the final paintings to artisan screen printers and bought a flat and did it up as part of a critically attuned art practice

For his solo show at Bloomberg SPACE, Parry created a series of ‘Elephant Paintings’, which outsourced the practical dimensions of the work to Nairobi elephants and artisan screen-printers to tease out a message about London’s current housing market and Parry’s new Brockley-based abode. To tell us more about this project Dazed spoke to Richard Parry about art, commerce, humour and Chemi Chemi (the elephant).

DD: What was the first piece of art to move you/stick in your memory?
Richard Parry:
The Last Supper painted by Marcos Zapata in Cusco in 1753. It is an official Church painting hanging in Cusco Cathedral Peru and depicts the Last Supper in the Catholic style except Judas has the face of Francisco Pizarro (the Spanish conquistador who murdered the last Incan Emperor) and Christ is eating a guinea pig. I think the Four Seasons Restaurant Commission (aka the Seagram murals) by Mark Rothko is a radical type of corporate art too.

Dazed Digital: What have you been doing since Dazed Digital last spoke to you?
Richard Parry:
I recruited some baby elephants to help me do an art commission; outsourced the fabrication of the final paintings to artisan screen printers and bought a flat and did it up as part of a critically attuned art practice. The elephants are called Chemi Chemi, Ishaq B, Mutara and Olare. They live in Nairobi and I bribed a volunteer at the sanctuary help make and send their paintings. Lucie and Mark (LUMA) are artisan screen printers who I sub-contracted the job of realising the final works in three months. The flat is in Brockley, and so naturally I’d have to be utterly pretentious to say anything about it. 

DD: What was the inspiration for the Elephant Paintings series?
Richard Parry:
Horror at the way ‘content’ is manufactured or presupposed by wider economies of information and culture. Horror at hearing an estate agent say an area was ‘up-and-coming’ because there was a bottle bank there. And, horror at living in the Art World / Global Village! I also wanted to express these concerns through a series of paintings that would increase the value of my flat through their content, production values and accepting their ultimate vocation as decorative data or creative collateral within wider cultural systems. 

DD: Your work, although holding gravitas, has a distinct sense of humour - is this important in art?
Richard Parry:
I used to think so, but all that’s changed.

Richard Parry, Elephant Paintings, Bloomberg SPACE until September 16, 2012