All career artists have one thing in common – an unquenchable desire to master their concepts, processes and materials. Whether it’s paint, glass, metal, ceramics or even the ubiquitous ‘mixed media’, the relationship between an artist and their medium of choice requires the kind of commitment that is usually only given to your spouse or kids: It’s lifelong, it’s gruelling and the greatest rewards come over time.
UK-born and now Richmond-based artist, Janet Perrior, has taken this to the next level with her latest series of works at Parker Gallery. She has spent the past few decades obsessing-with and fussing-over her materials. She’s a magpie, a collector, some might even say a hoarder of all the paper and cardboard that takes her fancy; a collection that may realistically not end up making a debut for another ten or 20 years. If there is one thing that Janet is not, it’s impatient.
Janet completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at Brighton University (UK) in 1979, and then spent two years in Japan absorbing the paper craft which continues to influence her work. If you’ve ever watched the delicate, pinpoint precision of a master sushi chef, then one can only apply the same level of accolade to the craft-knife skills of Janet Perrior. If you don’t believe me, try cutting several identical slices of cardboard without squashing the corrugations.
In ‘Talisman’ and ‘Midas Touch’, her signature material – meticulously sliced corrugated cardboard – has been cleverly juxtaposed with gold leaf… Not just any gold leaf, mind you, but a supply she sourced in Japan 37 years ago! Another ‘vintage’ inclusion in this series is a 1984 Glyndebourne programme cover (NB. For those readers unfamiliar with Glyndebourne, it is an opera house near Lewes, East Sussex, UK). The finished work, ‘All That Glitters’ features a central melodious line of golden Glyndebourne strips, contrasting with straight edges of finely sliced and folded cardboard.
The glimmer of gold in ‘Breaking The Circle’ comes from carefully rolled gilt edges from an old book. More literally, ‘breaking the circle’ reflects Janet’s approach to her art practice. She challenges our unsavoury misconceptions of her materials, and abandons any pursuit towards saccharine commercialism. Her titles are always thoughtful and deliberate.
‘Dress Circle’, with allusions to grandeur, uses humble tissue dressmaking patterns which no doubt hailed from frugal, pioneering origins. The concentric tonal circles are so perfect you would be forgiven for thinking they were 3D-printed. However, this body of work is the opposite of the fast, digital, immediate and instant age that we live in… It’s ‘slow-tech’. While it might be easy to simply dismiss the humble materials used in these works, the level of conceptual and technical mastery Janet achieves is not. Google ‘cardboard art’ and what you will see is a large body of figurative sculptures made from cardboard, large installations using whole boxes, and plenty of cardboard supports. What you won’t see is anything like Janet’s intelligent and masterful works that add fresh fuel to the ‘what is art’ debate.
Written by Leonie Allen, Parker Gallery