Platform Graduate Award 2020



#PlatformGraduateAward is now available to view online. Keep an eye out for further updates and supporting digital content here and on our Instagram.


Phoenix Art Space is delighted to be taking part in the Platform Graduate Award for the first time. Established in 2012, the Award is designed by CVAN South East to support emerging graduate artistic talent, and to help further their practice following graduation. The award includes a £2,000 bursary and 12-months of mentoring support from a practicing artist.

28 graduate artists have been selected from 11 universities by four CVAN network partners from the South East region; Aspex Portsmouth, Modern Art Oxford, Turner Contemporary Margate and Phoenix Art Space.

“In this extraordinarily challenging year when universities and galleries have had to close their doors, support for graduates entering an uncertain landscape is needed more urgently than ever. The Platform Graduate Award 2020 enables us to join our network partners in revealing the high quality and diversity of practice that continues to emerge from the eleven participating art schools”  – Sarah Davies Director of Phoenix Art Space

We originally selected five artists; Charlotte Guérard, Rachel Atkinson, and Ursula Vargas (University of Brighton); Jessica Davis and Leanne Jones-Starr (East Sussex College Hastings).
Of these five talented artists, we put forward Rachel Atkinson as our Platform nominee. She was selected by a panel consisting of Executive Director Sarah Davies and three Phoenix studio artist members: Fergus Heron, Geoff Hands and Anna Dumitriu. It was Rachel’s level of experimentation and playfulness alongside witty social commentary that stood out for the panel. Rachel joined a shortlist of four artists to be put forward for the Platform Graduate Award.
–  Congratulations to Louise Hall who was selected as the Platform Graduate Artist 2020 on 5 December by a panel that included guest selector Tai Shani. Find out more.


Charlotte Guérard’s painting practice seeks for an abstract narrative, a conversation between forms and colour. Her work confronts ambiguous compositions with shapes which enter and leave the paintings all at once, inviting the viewers to reflect upon their perspective of time and space. Her aim is to investigate what happens beneath the surface and how new marks reach outside of the frame. Charlottes’s 2020 alternative Graduate show was presented as a virtual exhibition entitled: Is this a first, featuring works produced before and after lockdown. She was nominated for the Freelands Painting Prize 2020 and published in the a-n review earlier this year.
Visit Charlotte’s Instagram

Working within the expanded field of sculpture, Rachel Atkinson’s practice consists of large-scale props, video, photography, and poetry. Utilising these media, along with characters and props, she sets a scene of fakery and strangeness to explore concepts of audience expectations, illusion, the screen, theatre, and colour. Colour often takes centre stage within her practice, and fluorescent green is the star of the show. Not only does it reference the video technique of ‘Green Screen’, but also the luminous quality of the colour transforms the work into something experiential. She aims to bring the audience a humorous and light-hearted new perspective by confounding their preconceptions of illusion, theatre, technology and art.
Visit Rachel’s Instagram

As a Peruvian artist Ursula Vargas has been researching pre-Columbian art and how this historical aspect of her culture is reflected in her contemporary practice. She is also aware of natural disasters and its effects on populations since ancient times as well as during her own lifetime. Witnessing how human exploitation of natural resources contributes to environmental problems and climate change has been acknowledged in her choice of traditional painting media with found supports such as discarded cardboard boxes. Other recycled materials and detritus appear in her works, together with geographical imagery and subjects, most especially the motorway as a conduit to her work and a sign both of modernity and personal memories that she has accumulated during road trips from childhood to adulthood.
Visit Ursula’s website

Jessica Davis’ practice intends to express the effects of how both animals and humans have clashed as they expand more into each other’s territory. To express this through art she uses a range of mediums, such as drawing, painting, taxidermy, sculpture, and photography. The aim of her work is to give the animal a voice that will open the eyes of humans. This will then create possibilities of both living together in the world we share, without the other having to suffer. Using a range of taxidermy and dead creatures, she presents shocking/horrifying compositions that show the effects on the animals themselves. Growing up, Jessica saw the effects that humanity has on the wildlife around us. Having her own difficulties with special needs, she feels that she has a deeper connection with nature and animals.
Visit Jessica’s website

Through the medium of photography, Leanne Jones-Starr explores the connection between memories, the uncanny and intuition. From her own discoveries within this area of human experience, she suggests that without our memories the uncanny could not exist. Her most recent collection of works is a collection entitled Isolation Garden which consists of five digital images which were taken during lockdown. They are inspired by the confinement of the garden and each are individually titled as the time in which they were taken. Utilising light and shadow, Leanne exploits a perceived awkwardness and challenges our sense of the familiar. With the aid of Photoshop to mirror the image, the work invites us to question what it is we are viewing and to further consider the associations we build through our singular and collective memory.
Visit Leanne’s website

Read artist Geoff Hands’ review of the Platform Graduate Award exhibition here.