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Anastasia Parmson is an award-winning artist born in Estonia. She has Siberian roots, French education and is currently living and working in Sydney, Australia. Parmson received a Master’s in visual arts from Strasbourg University in 2009 and then embarked on multiple life-changing adventures on sea, land and in-between. Travelling a lot and living in several countries around the world has meant that she is constantly searching for belonging in unfamiliar places, while inevitably remaining an outsider. Drawing has been her way to create pockets of intimacy and to trace her place in the world.
Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery and MAY SPACE Gallery in Australia, Megan Dickinson Gallery in New Zealand, Tallinn Light Biennale in Estonia, Apollonia Art Exchanges in France, and more. Parmson has been featured in multiple blogs and publications, including Articulate, Create! Magazine, EatSleepDraw magazine and The Big Idea. In 2021 she was granted a Create NSW Arts and Cultural Funding Grant toward developing her most ambitious work: a site-specific art installation for Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, which was exhibited from November 2021 until February 2022. Parmson is currently working on multiple upcoming projects in Sydney.
1. Would you consider your work as ‘illustrations’ or ‘art’? Is there a difference according to you?
There is definitely a difference between art and illustration in my mind. To me, illustration is a representation of the external world, of an existing subject or theme. Art on the other hand is the expression of something internal, something less tangible and more subjective. My work may intersect the two fields because the medium of drawing is also one of the primary tools used for illustration. In the same way that it intersects the fields of object - or interior design because I use ready-made objects and furniture pieces as my art materials and my installations take the form of domestic interiors.
People have approached me for some illustration projects in the past but I don’t consider myself an illustrator and don’t think I have the appropriate skill set for the job. I am neck deep in the fine art realm, that’s what I know and love.
2. What is at the core of your expression? How do you aspire for your work to be experienced and interpreted?
The art I make stems from deeply personal memories, histories and experiences. It’s a way for me to ground myself; to remember who I am and where I come from.
I grew up in Estonia but moved to live in France by myself straight after high school. After finishing my studies in Strasbourg, I went on an adventure to Australia and New Zealand and have not really stopped travelling the world since. I have lived in many places, each time having to start from square one in terms of the local culture, interpersonal connections, even language. It has certainly been very enriching but also made it hard to find stability or to feel included when everything around you is constantly changing. So, for me, drawing is my constant; something I can always turn to in order to steady myself and to find a sense of belonging. My art is a way for me to process and combine all those experiences and express them in a visual format.
It would be great if people could experience my work in person, as an immersive installation or perhaps even interactive installation. And although the work is filled with personal stories and some inside jokes, I prefer to leave most of them undisclosed. It’s important for me to provide enough blank space for the audience to read their own stories between the lines. I enjoy hearing different interpretations and references that I would never have thought of myself. The viewers’ reading of the art expands and enriches the work after I have finished making it, and that’s the magical part for me. I do hope that my work can be uplifting and inspiring, that it gets someone’s creative juices flowing. That is all I could ask for.
3. Please tell us about your creative journey – how has your style evolved over the years? What/who are your biggest influences?
Drawing has always been my medium of choice, since early childhood. I stumbled over my current drawing style almost by accident: I used to aspire to draw in a more hyper-realistic style, with pencil or charcoal. Then one day I was in a hurry to finish an assignment and I was too bored and lazy to do the grayscale shading on a drawing, so instead I traced the outlines of where the lights and shadows should be with a pen. That was a liberating moment of epiphany for me. I haven’t looked back since. I love how drawing the outlines of objects and shadows can look completely abstract from up close but still creates a representational image. I also love the immediacy of drawing with ink and markers, where instead of chasing perfection one must embrace the mistakes.
While studying fine art at Strasbourg University I mainly began working with video projection and installation. Drawing seemed more of a tool for documenting and prep work rather than a medium in its own right.
My greatest influence was a teacher at university who taught me most of everything I know about contemporary art and who gently pushed me out of my comfort zone, to a point where I could begin envisioning ways to turn humble line drawing into large scale installation art. I would not be where I am today as an artist without this teacher.
4. A body of work you created that you are particularly proud of? Please share details of how you conceived of it.
My latest site-specific installation I Drew a Line And Called It Home at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery is my biggest project to date and a culmination of several years of work. The primitive beginnings of that body of work were in fact first exhibited at my MFA grad show in Strasbourg, in 2009, where I created a black and white letterbox and a television set. It’s back then that I first conceived the idea of a whole room in drawing. It took me many years, in-between travel, moving countries and other projects, before I was able to start turning that idea into reality.
5. An upcoming project that excites you… or an unrealised project close to you?
I cannot yet reveal any upcoming projects because nothing is confirmed as of yet, but I am definitely working on showing my most recent body of work to a wider audience and in more diverse locations.
In the near future I would like to present my work as a self-contained installation pod within a large exhibition space. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to show what I mean by that very soon. And in the long term, I would like to start incorporating my other favourite medium – video projection – back into my work.
Many of my followers have been asking me about my work uniform and shoes that I painted in my signature black line style for my own use. So perhaps a collaboration with a clothing brand could be a fun project to be part of as well.
Click here to read more about Illustrative Chronicles, a collection of STIR articles that examine illustration as a discipline for narrating stories of the contemporary urban.
(Research Support by Vatsala Sethi, Asst. Editorial Coordinator (Arts))
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