After Nyne x ArtBAB: Nine Minutes with Artist Jonathan Parker

Born in Belfast (1968), the artist Jonathan Parker grew up in Twickenham, Middlesex, attending King’s Wimbledon and Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in the mid ’80s. He then lived in Spain for two years and was winner of the Royal Academy Richard Ford Award in 1992.

Before graduating from Northumbria University with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 1992he undertook a screen print apprenticeship in Havana, Cuba, combining this unique experience with his first exhibition outside Europe (‘Dibujos’ 1991). His first solo show in London was with Mercury in Cork Street in 2000.

He is exhibiting as part of ArtBAB, which takes place in Bahrain this upcoming week.

As a U.K. artist why was it important to you to take part in the 2019 edition of ArtBAB? 

I am interested to know what people will make of my paintings in that part of the world. London provides me with a very firm base but it would good to shake things up a bit. There seems to be a growing interest in collecting western art in the Middle East and I think Bahrain could be a good gateway to broadening my horizons.

What was your knowledge of the Bahrain arts scene before you agreed to take part in ArtBAB? 

I had heard that it was very healthy on many levels. I enjoy explaining how my artworks are made and apparently that goes down well.


What can you tell us about the activities you’re going to be involved in while you’re there?

I will be manning my stand mostly but hopefully participating in various discussions about the art world. Everyone will have a different perspective. Ideally I get to give a talk about painting as I see it to an audience; the themes are passion, timing and success. But I will have to persuade the right people to listen. It’s a short speech  which I gave to the Key Clients of the Private Bank I have an agreement with in Mayfair. They all enjoyed getting an insight into what being one kind of particular artist means.

I am also looking forward to finding out a bit more about VR. I was mesmerised by an immersive experience at Tate Modern’s Modigliani exhibition where we were catapulted into the artist’s studio. The curator Nancy Ireson was keen that it was well-received as it was a first for them. Hopefully the creators of such formats will be at ArtBAB to talk to.

Which artists (Bahraini or otherwise) are exciting you at the moment?

Ibrahim El-Salahi (born Omdurman, Sudan 1930) with his use of calligraphy as visual imagery. A mark is both a face and something else to do with time. That resonates with me.

What do you think is Bahrain’s role in the international arts scene?

Pivotal for all concerned


What are you most looking forward to about ArtBAB 2019?

I am looking forward to meeting the King and Queen and showing them my “Flights from Gravity” paintings of seaplanes from 100 years ago which my great-uncle Jack test-piloted. I recently discovered that a Bahrain commemorative postage stamp with a portrait of the King along with a drawing of a very early RAF bomber  had been issued to mark the centenary of the first flight to Bahrain. We’ll have some common ground.

During the rest of the Fair, Thursday to Sunday, I will have a chance to find out which of the Bahraini artists stand out. It will be good to have several days to absorb what I’m sure is a vibrant scene.

IMAGE: Jonathan Parker, Flights from Gravity (Three) 130 x 115cm 2017