Platform Graduate Award Focus – Jonathan Parsons
10th Dec 2017
Jonathan Parsons is an artist known for the diversity of his practice, which includes installation, sculpture, found objects, drawing, painting and fabrication. He was selected for the British Art Show 5 (2000) and was one of the youngest artists to be included in the notorious Sensation exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts (1997). Since 1999 he has taught at undergraduate and postgraduate level at institutions including UCA Farnham and University of Gloucestershire. He has also been a mentor and development advisor working with Aspex and other organisations UK-wide since 2005. His work is currently featured in Sea Music in Residence at Poole Museum, Dorset until 7 January 2018. Jonathan has been the Platform Graduate Award mentor since the award’s establishment in 2012.
“The Platform mentoring experience is essentially an extension of the tutorial experience the graduate will have received at University, with an emphasis on enabling the artist to think about their place in the professional environment as an independent artist. Sometimes they see me as the teacher and themselves as the student, but I try to encourage a more collegiate response with them to move away from this dynamic. It’s about suggesting what an artist ‘might best do’ rather than ‘should do’ as it’s ultimately up to them to make decisions about their careers for themselves.
“Initially I make an assessment about where the artist is with their practice and what they require from me to take it forward. The support varies from artist to artist – I give advice about contacts, how to increase visibility, on producing artist initiated projects, pointers for specific artforms, indicating the directions they could go with their work, reading over artist statements and proposals and so on.
“The mentorship is tailored to suit each individual artist and over the twelve month period the artist decides how often they wish to meet with me, whether I visit their studio or whether they visit mine or we visit an exhibition together.
“Each Platform Graduate Award artist I have mentored has been wildly different from one another in terms of their practice, the stage they are at in the development of their practice, whether they are developing new ways of working or finding their feet in terms of method and approach. The one thing they all have in common is they are all incredibly keen and committed. It’s a pleasure to share their energy.
“I recently had my penultimate session with Platform 2016 winner Daniel Owusu in my London studio. He tends to come along with his sketchbooks and his laptop to show me what he is working on. Working with film, his art practice is complex, technical and involved.
“I have kept in contact with all of the Platform artists I have mentored and am open to casting my eye over proposals or writing or to act as a sounding board to talk through ideas they are working on at any time.
“It can be quite challenging coming out of an undergraduate course to establish yourself as an artist, and the bursary has been instrumental for some people to be able to set themselves up with a studio space. The network across the Platform gallery partners has also been useful in assisting previous winners to find spaces.
“We have kept the Platform Alumni group going, which is made up of all the artists who have been involved since 2012, as the artists can really benefit from the networking opportunity it provides, and to initiate meet ups or projects together. The key thing for a graduate artist is to continue to work and to not give up, and to find ways to make the work visible. Having a support network can aid this.
“For me the experience is fantastic. Artists initiate the most interesting things that happen in the artworld, and being with other artists, conversing, sharing ideas, working together is absolutely essential to take things forward. Meeting younger artists who are developing their practice is wonderful. They challenge you, ask you intelligent questions and share artists, exhibitions and writing with you – they teach you. You share energy and create a bigger energy than you would do on your own.”
Image: Daniel Owusu and Jonathan Parsons in Jonathan’s studio © Jonathan Parsons, 2017.