Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Image courtesy of Artist
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Black British culture has enjoyed something of a cultural renaissance in recent years. From the rise of Hollywood actors such as Peckham born and bred Damson Idris and John Boyega, to the likes of Skepta, Central Cee and Giggs, who have crossed over and are taking UK grime and rap to new heights previously thought unreachable.

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Brianna Lois Parker

Music, fashion, film and tv, have all made considerable inroads in capturing the dynamism, energy, rawness and diversity of London’s inner city youth culture. But until recently, the fine arts space left a lot to be desired when it came to the depiction of this unique lived experience; that was until the award winning, visual artist representing South London, Brianna Lois Parker, picked up a paint brush…

Raphael: This conversation is long overdue. Since I first came across your work in 2021, your practice has come on leaps and bounds. Before we address that however, let’s start from the beginning. When was the moment you first realised you were an artist, and how would you describe the journey to date?

Brianna Lois Parker: After nearly dropping out of Uni during my first year and working from my bedroom for the entirety of the last, it was at that moment I realised I was an artist. My passion for art and my practice carried me through the course, and despite the many obstacles I faced, I graduated with a First Class BA (hons) in Fine Art.

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Image courtesy of the artist

Raphael: There have been many British artists who have depicted ideas of identity, belonging and culture in their work over the years. But to my knowledge, none have so vividly and distinctly captured the inner city black London experience and youth culture of the past decade as you have. What was your childhood and upbringing like, and how has your background informed your practice today?

Brianna Lois Parker: I have lived in a multicultural urban environment my entire life, which has profoundly influenced my work. Representing identity, community, and the Black British experience is extremely important to me. I was born to a midwife and a postman, their long overlapping work hours resulted in my older cousin looking after me during the summer holidays. I distinctly remember countless hours spent at Deptford adventure playground (a youth club). It was here that I believe my love for creating developed.

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Image courtesy of the artist

Raphael: From films like Blue Story, to critically acclaimed TV series such as Top Boy, and of course music and fashion with artists like Little Simz, Central Cee and Dave becoming global stars, not to mention brands such as Wales Bonner also achieving international recognition, do you think we are on the cusps of a Black British cultural renaissance, and if so, why?

Brianna Lois Parker: Most definitely! It is exciting to witness and I’m honoured to be a part of it. The dynamic interplay across film, music, and fashion enriches this vibrant cultural renaissance. Increasing support from platforms and institutions is enhancing visibility and opportunities for Black British creatives.

Raphael: Speaking of Top Boy, it would be remiss not to mention that you were chosen to create a piece to be shown at the ‘Portrait of a Top Boy’ exhibition at Somerset House, which was then later exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery. How did this collaboration come about, and how has it impacted you?

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Image courtesy of the artist

Brianna Lois Parker: It all started with a DM from a lovely lady from Intermission Film. The Top Boy experience has impacted me massively! I was fortunate enough to connect with various individuals that, much like myself, love the critically acclaimed show and have an even stronger love for the art work.

Till this day I am so proud of what I produced. Completing a painting, to that standard, within 2 weeks was a new personal record (it typically takes 4-6 weeks). During that period I was painting from 8am to 10pm daily, running on nothing but coffee and vibes. I would do it all again in a heartbeat! I am so grateful to have painted the character Stefan. I was able to draw out a lot of symbolism relating to aspects of the show and real world issues, such as the adultification of Black boys within our society.

Raphael: On the topic of accolades and achievements, congratulations on winning the 2023 Margate Art Prize. How did you feel being chosen in such a competitive field of both emerging and established artists, and especially being selected by the iconic Young British Artists (YBAs) alumna, Tracey Emin?

Brianna Lois Parker: It was a massive achievement! It meant everything to be selected by the world renowned Tracey Emin. I have been a huge fan of her since I discovered her work during my A Levels. It was surreal to be chosen as a winner by an artist whose work, 7 years prior, I was recreating for my own studies.

Raphael: Any words of encouragement or advice from Tracey Emin on how to continue
to navigate your career and build from here on out?

Brianna Lois Parker: We are yet to meet but I am looking forward to doing so and hopefully gaining some knowledge from what I would refer to as as a British icon.

Raphael Dapaah In Conversation With Brianna Lois Parker
Image courtesy of the artist

Raphael: On to some trivia questions. Who are your top three favourite living artists, and why?

Brianna Lois Parker:

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Her ability to create subjects from her imagination.
Barbara Walker: Her exploration of documentation and erasure.
Jordan Casteel: The way she connects with her community and how it fuels the work
she produces.

Raphael: Who are your top three favourite late artists, and why?

Brianna Lois Parker:

Barkley L Hendricks: His contribution to Black portraiture and representation.
Hieronymous Bosch: The chaos of “The Garden of Earthly Delights”.
Frida Kahlo: Because she said “They thought I was a Surrealist, but I
wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”.

Raphael: What is next for you, and what shows can we expect you to be a part
of in 2024.

Brianna Lois Parker: I am very excited for this upcoming year! I am fortunate enough to be a part of the curator, Ronan McKenzie’s exhibition titled “What I Thought I Knew”. Might I add, McKenzie is one of the most genuine and kind people I’ve met in the art world. The show opens officially on 13th June running until 30th August. I also have another exhibition coming up in September 2024, so stay tuned.

Raphael: Any final words, shout outs or cheeky plugs you want to mention before you go?

Brianna Lois Parker: Mi Insta! @briannaloisparker. Add it up! Like mi posts! And join me on this artistic journey!

©2024 Brianna Lois Parker