Beneath the Surface: Edith Perry

Edith Perry’s instillation If I had Healing Powers, I’d Still Have a Broken Heart, part of her ongoing Sad Superheroes Series, can currently be seen at the Surface Dwellers: Old and New until 27th August. Edith’s background comes from studying Set Design at Wimbledon College of Art and time in London working on various productions. She uses this background to create installations that tell the stories of “average people turned into grotesque beings”. We met for a pint to discuss her work, potential, not taking art too seriously and an Orwellian theme park.

In your description of Sad Superheroes you described it as watching blockbuster films and thinking ‘I couldn’t be bothered with that’

I was just hungover and I was like… I’d be so tired, why are they bothering? I think a lot of people talk about what they want to do. I think it’s more about potential and what your potential could be. In terms of Sad Superheroes, it’s this idea of like super hero movies and the reality is you’re watching it in your pants. It’s the opposite to your life. I think it’s more about having a power and applying it to real life.

When did you come to surface?

I volunteered first; in February last year and then I got a studio space in October. I did a bit of everything. I did the bar a lot, three Roaring Megs and you’re made for the night. I set up an exhibition for the University of Nottingham and I did tech work. Tech work was my favourite.

What made you move from volunteer to studio artist?

It became available and I thought, I could use a space. (laughs) We had a volunteer and studio artist show together... I made that entire thing on my parent’s kitchen table and I thought I’m in the way here, you know what, I’ll go get a studio.

Do you get to see the other artists much?

I think the most I’ve seen them was the night before this exhibition and everyone was in there until 2am. We had a meeting a week before and the only thing I had ready was the cat face. I was doing that cat face for a good few months before because I didn’t know if it would work. I was like can it even be made? Luckily, it did work.

Do you use social media much to promote your work?

I have a website. A lot of the work I do isn’t made for social media in a way… It’s moving or optical illusions. In that way, I think it’s more important to see it. You can take a picture but you’re not going to get the movement. I enjoy doing the optical illusions so I’ll stick with it. I do illustrations too, they’re just creepy.

Do you ever work in colour?

Only if I have to design a birthday card for someone’s grandma. This is the third Sad Superheroes I’ve done, I’ve got a list of about 10 to do so before that’s finished, I doubt it. When I came up with [sad superheroes] I wrote down things like ‘if I was a shape-shifter, I still couldn’t pull’. It came from that, like ‘if I could fly, I still wouldn’t know where to go.’ And it just came from this, if I could fly, what would I actually do? It was just about making... It’s usually an animal morphed into a human and going from there really and setting up situations.

What’s the goal for your art?

Make the coolest thing I can as soon as I can.

The thing my tutors used to say to me is ‘you need to rein it in’ and I’d be like, no, I don’t. So the plan for this work was have the gecko and have the cat and that was the plan. And then it went to, I’ll put the dog in and I’ll make wallpaper and I’ll also put this flip book in and

also… I just see each thing and get bigger.

It fits with your work, if it’s about what you actually would do with your potential and here you are, pushing to reach yours

(laughs) A lot of the time as well I’ll be like dad, because he’s quite technical, is this possible? And he’ll say nah and I’ll be like I bet it is. I’d rather do something I don’t know is gonna work then is definitely going to work.

Did you find it difficult to move from theatre, which is collaborative, to your own work?

I think my attitude the whole time was like, not focused on me, but… It did need to feel like my work. I would design sets without photoshop. Photoshop looks great but it’s not what I want, I want people to be in it. Something people can walk through

I feel like you should design roller coasters.

I did once! I turned 1984 into an abandoned theme park. My tutor didn’t like it though. I did it based on this theme park in Germany that’s been abandoned… My idea was 1984 sucked all the fun out of living, so it’s an abandoned theme park, there’s no fun, no innocence. Just this is your life, do it. So Winston’s house was a shed and you have to ride the roller coaster to get to where you live.

What do you want people to talk from your work?

Not to take it too seriously. I’d like them to find it a bit funny and a bit creepy but I’d like them to laugh at it like I don’t really know why I’m laughing.

Written by Lucinda Martin at Surface Gallery