On deck

Rejected from art school, Parra acquired his own design skills and subsequently became a creative force in Amsterdam’s club scene, before winning briefs from major corporate clients. John Stones talks to him about his work

Parra describes Holland as ‘one of the most humourless countries in the world’, saying he developed the wit evident in his work by watching quirky British TV programmes such as Monty Python. But Parra also prizes the Dutch ‘weirdness’ reflected in both his graphics and the sculpture he created with his father, which will also be displayed at the Kemistry Gallery.

Parra has already enjoyed significant commercial success – in addition to the work for Ben & Jerry’s commissioned by London ad agency Fallon, his work has been used across Europe by shoe retailer Foot Locker. He has also been commissioned by Nike to created a limited edition Amsterdam trainer and is in talks with a couple of other big brands.

Nevertheless, Parra is not seduced by the lure of financial reward. Commercial work, he says, takes up only 20 per cent of his time and allows him to pursue more interesting projects that bring little or no reward. ‘I don’t need that much money, but I have to eat too,’ he says. This generosity of spirit is also in evidence at the Kemistry Gallery, where one-off reprints of his work are being sold for £30 a piece.

Parra has also established his own clothing brand – Rockwell Clothing – consisting of club and skate wear featuring his graphics, sold in boutiques throughout the world. He says clothing is simply another canvas on which to work.

While those going to the Kemistry Gallery are likely to be already interested in design, Parra says he most enjoys working on flyers, posters and T-shirts because they reach a ‘super-wide audience of people who would normally never be interested in design or illustration’.

Parra – Assorted Works runs from 3 February to 30 March at the Kemistry Gallery, 43 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A. Tel: 0207 7729 3636

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