A Day with Gina Parr

Gina Parr is a British painter currently based in London’s East End and Devon. She earned a First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art and shortly afterwards studied Set Design at Chelsea College of Art where she subsequently lectured. This led to a lengthy 25 year career in Set Design where she worked for major UK media channels such as the BBC.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I usually row first. I have a wonderful water rower which swishes as I row, great for the body and mind. If it’s good weather, I power walk down the hill onto the beach front, and complete a circuit to home before breakfast. In both circumstances, I tend to think about a work that I have in the studio and how I’m going to approach it that day.

“Legacy II” by Gina Parr

What inspires you to create every day?

I’m an only child. So I consequently spent lots of time by myself, inhabiting a secret creative world. It’s who I am. I can’t imagine being without creativity. It’s my therapy and my whole life. I trained as a Fine Artist towards the end of the 1970’s, did some lecturing and then went into the BBC in London as a Production Designer for 25 years, 14 of which were freelance. I created set designs for clients to strict deadlines and specific budgets. So when I returned to my art practice in 2007, I relish the freedom of just the creative part. Having been creative for so long, the self motivation is my second nature now. But I’m still pushing myself, setting constant challenges and goals for my career.

Gina Parr

How would you describe the core of your art style?

My autobiographical subject matter covers: memories of childhood, loss, family, feminism, death and love, all common experiences, which I generally express through abstracted reference to the natural world.

When I’m painting I’m completely immersed in the process and build a reverberating relationship with the canvas, a push and pull of spontaneity and controlled intention. I work adding and subtracting, aiming to invoke an atmosphere drawn from the process, the initial emotional trigger and the chosen color palette which depends on the body of work I’m currently involved in. I use palette knife, cloth, brush, sponge and sometimes fingers, to add , remove, scratch, blur and work the paint, and have recently been drawing into the paint with charcoal and palette knife.

I’ve always liked the freedom of gut to hand expression. At the moment I’m interested in exploring the dichotomy between dynamic gestural mark making and more detailed concentrated drawing. I particularly admire the work of Rose Wylie, Cy Twombly, Rothko, Anselm Keifer, Robert Motherwell and Howard Hodgkin.

Gina Parr in her studio

What are your top 3 studio essentials?

I need to have a clear head and to feel settled. Anything pressing that needs sorting in everyday life and business needs to be addressed before I start in the studio. This means I usually spend time when I start the day doing these things, including dealing with correspondence with galleries and clients, updating online gallery content and listings, sorting exhibition details etc. Then I have a coffee and head down to the studio knowing I’ve left the plates happily up and spinning. There is so much more to an Artist’s life than just creating… Once in the studio, I have BBC Radio 4 on, which I don’t listen to in detail. But it’s a comforting familiar background sound. And occasionally there is something that comes up that is relevant to my work, which goes in subliminally. 

“Waiting for everything and nothing”

How do you know or decide when an artwork is finished?

That’s a difficult one to explain. Somehow the balance and feel of a work is just right, I know when I have to stop and consider. I usually try to hang new work in our living room and live with it for a while, if I feel its nearing completion. That way I can live with it and consider if its finished or needs more attention.

Sometimes I return to a work quite a long time after. Having a gap puts some distance between subjectivity and objectivity. Some works are easier and they tell me when they are finished. Its all part of the relationship that I build with the works. Paintings do each have their own characters and need to be nurtured, with time to grow to a successful conclusion. 

What do you like to do to unwind after a day’s work? 

When I’m in Devon I tend to watch TV, Drama usually and the news, especially in winter. In the summer more socializing with friends, walking and reading. I spend a lot of time in London which I use for networking, visiting exhibitions and private views and socializing. I lived there for 30 years before we moved to the coast.

We regularly go away backpacking and photographing in January and February. My husband is a photographer, so we tend to go for 2 month working/ holiday trips to places like India, Sri Lanka, Cuba, Vietnam, where there is plenty of textural decay in walls and surfaces for me to find subject matter for my photography. I refer to them as “ Painting with my camera” whilst I’m away from the studio.

“Krishnan Kovil” from Gina Parr’s Sri Lanka Photography Series

What’s your overall favorite aspect of the creative process?

My favorite would be the escapism into a secret dialogue and a means of expressing who I am. When something sells, its wonderful to know that a collector responds, connects and understands where I’m coming from.

For more of Gina’s artwork, visit her Singulart page here.