Catching Up, 2020 Animation 05:51 mins
Catching Up, 2020 Animation 05:51 mins
Catching Up, 2020 Animation 05:51 mins

Janette Parris

with Wells Fray-Smith

‘Catching Up is based on conversations I had recently with friends, acquaintances, work colleagues. Basically, it’s about how to survive and live in London as a creative person.’

Listen to the full interview here:


My name’s Janette Parris and I work in different disciplines, disciplines that you wouldn’t necessarily see in a gallery. I take inspiration from comic books, soap operas, musical theatre, literature, pop songs, you name it.

What are you showing in The London Open 2022?

I’m showing an animated video. Well, I call it a musical, actually. It’s about six minutes long, a very short musical. I write the script and the songs, and use digital drawing software to create the animation. This work is called Catching Up (2020) and is set in South London where I live. The main characters meet on the Local High Street, an area of London that’s constantly changing, to catch up and discuss their everyday realities.

Are these stories that you source from other people? Or are they factual things that you witness? And how does the content and dialogue generate?

It’s a bit of both. So the script, or the conversation in Catching Up is based on conversations I had recently with friends, acquaintances, work colleagues. It’s about how to survive and live in London, as a creative person.

Have you felt that the pandemic has shifted that experience?

It has for some and not for others. The history of creative art or the arts industry is littered with people who just about get by.

This work seems to have different expressions. There’s the musical and this animated film, there’s also a live element.

Yes, there’s also a live element. I will have characters or actors bursting into song, unannounced throughout the gallery, and the exhibition. The songs normally link to certain locations around London, and conversations I’ve had with people. It’s a collaborative process.

Work in the exhibition:
Catching Up, 2020
05:51 mins

Janette Parris (1962, London, UK)
2004 MA Creative Writing, University of East Anglia
1994 MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths, University of London
1991 BA Fine Art, Camberwell College of Art, London

Selected exhibitions and performances:
Emplotment, Ludwig Museum, Budapest (2022); A View without the Bridge, Focal Point Gallery, Southend (2021); Summer Exhibition 2021, Royal Academy, London (2021); Everyday Heroes, Hayward Gallery and Southbank Centre, London (2020); Talking with Deptford, (Lead Artist, Performance), Deptford X (2015); Bad Copy, Museums At Night (Exhibition, Performance), Cardiff Story Museum (2014); Rude Britannia, Tate Britain, London (2010); The Breakout Tour, (Exhibition, Performance), Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham (2007)

What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?

This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.

Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.

The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.

The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.

The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.

Gallery 1, Downstairs

The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.

Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.

Gallery 9, Upstairs

This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free  2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.

Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.

Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?

Gallery 8, Upstairs

The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.

Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.

On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.

The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.

Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.

See the full list of works here.

An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.

Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.