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The Platform Graduate Award is an initiative to support emerging graduate artistic talent to further their practice following graduation. Established in 2012, the award includes a £2,000 bursary and 12 months of mentoring support, and is awarded to an outstanding graduate from one of several participating regional higher education partners.

The initiative is led by CVAN South East (Contemporary Visual Arts Network South East) and is currently a partnership between four galleries: Aspex in Portsmouth, MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, Modern Art Oxford and Phoenix Art Space in Brighton. Following an exhibition and events programme across the participating galleries, an artist from each gallery is nominated for the award, with the winning artist announced in December 2021.

This year's selected artists for MK Gallery are Him Ming Chan from University of Northampton, Jennifer Watts from University of Hertfordshire and Shannon Ryan from the University of Bedfordshire/

About Him Ming Chan

Him Ming Chan's work explores the relationship between male figures, both individually and interactively, the self and others through the use of monoporints and the overlaying of interacting bodies that exposes the rawest form of human nature. Through fluid, quick depictions of sex, identity, and homoeroticism, he hopes for viewers to engage with the narrative within the pieces.

About Jennifer Watts

Primarily a sculptor, Jennifer Watts’ practice adopts three main components: movement, form, and absence. In this body of work the artist has attempted to capture dramatic curvature within the works’ skeletal structure, using hand-bent steel bars to construct these baroque shapes. Watts has made a conscious decision to bend the bars by hand: this extremely physical and performative process allows for action and movement to be encapsulated within each sculpture’s body, providing it with its own kinetic energy and life.

In addition to the elaborate anatomy of the work, the aesthetic of each sculpture alters depending on the angle it is viewed from.  This shifting perspective adds an ambiguous quality to the work, allowing it to be viewed as a lineal, two-dimensional form as well as in its evident three-dimensionality. In this sculptural triptych, Watts has left purposeful absences within the structure of each piece. She believes that these gaps are as important as the visible artwork itself, leaving the spectator to interrogate their purpose and wonder what might have originally filled each void.

Through this collection of works, the artist hints at connotations to organic forms such as skeletal structures and bacteria, suggesting an exploration into the decomposition of living organisms, and what remains in their place. 

About Shannon Ryan

Shannon Ryan is a photographer based in Bedfordshire, England, whose portraiture, and fashion photography present parallel worlds. Inspired by pop culture and current trends her fashion imagery experiments with texture, colour, and lighting both on location and within a studio. Whereas her portraiture explores darker themes, producing work with subliminal messages which question hard-hitting topics and makes viewers question her pieces. A new recurring theme within her portrait photography is the psychological and emotional impact of current world issues. Her series ‘The Sleeper’ documents the mental and physical impact Covid-19 had on the youth. Noticing the behaviour change of her prepubescent brother she wanted to document how he coped with the pandemic and presenting the crimpling mental damage it caused to the future generation. Her newest series ‘The Influencer’ explores today’s fascination of social media personalities. Placing herself in front of the camera, Shannon embeds herself into this ever-growing obsession to explore and understand the moral value of being an influencer. Using props, clothing, and make-up Shannon created a whole new identity to help gain a deep personal understanding of the minds of influencers and how fame can comprehend their decisions. She created portraits that mimic and mock the millions of images seen daily on social media but also questioning why this behaviour is becoming normalised and idolised.