I’ve written this “blurb” based on some Radio interviews I’ve given in the last year. I avoid all writing so I hope that this can offer an insight into how we got to where we are NOW.
“Trafford Parsons loves to take inspiration from popular culture. Be it the 1970s icons in his Storm Trooper etchings, or Sci-fi monsters attacking London landmarks in his Gaia series of screen prints.”
Q. Where does this fascination of popular culture come from with all the sci–fi references with storm troopers and monsters attacking London landmarks?
A. It all starts with my love of nights out and my love of underground British nightclubs. Art found me through the flyers and posters that are the visual language of the night - album cover art, film posters, band logos, fashion and music photos, performances, magazine graphics, dress sense and music. Rock and roll, northern soul, punk, rave and acid jazz, growing up in Britain…
As a boy I must have been bitten by radio active spiders from space equipped with a venom that acted as supper conductive growth hormone to the playful, creative artistic side of my brain and atrophied the logical conformist side to such an extent that I find it very difficult to read and I’m driven to do jobs that allow me to express the mischief of my thoughts.
Q. What got you into art?
A. I’m dyslexic so I didn’t have the confidence to fill in the application forms for regular work. I was lucky that I’m not shy, so I was able to take advantage of the new wave and punk energy of the late 1970’s and early 80’s… performing in bands, promoting events, fashion shows, film extra work. Even community art projects – films, performances and very big paintings. Then I hit my stride getting paid for dancing in the street, being a performance artist. I had residencies at The Corner House and the Green Room in Manchester and performed a lot at The Hacienda in the 80’s, and this was all before I started playing records in a club, the job that opened up so many possibilities, the least of which was the post-modern remixing of culture. I owe a debt to all the people who paid me or booked me or came to my performances, their support was fuel to my mischief. I loved it all, and I was able to design flyers and posters to cover the streets of Manchester in my artwork. I was arrested a few times for fly posting, but always got off - it seemed the authorities realised what I added was greater than any damage I caused – and I told them about the spider bites…
Q What art inspires you?
A. FILM. I love it, as a small boy my father would pick me up from school and take me out to see films. Even now I go and see films in the afternoon, it’s like a tradition for me. Film is the art form of now. If Michelangelo was alive today he wouldn’t be painting the Pope’s ceiling he would be making films. (Or maybe funky silkscreen pop surrealist prints.)
There were so many great films to watch. As a sixth former I learnt to use the school projector, and showed films in the hall - art films like ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, ‘Psycho’ and ‘James Bond’. My best school memories were sitting in the dark.
I love Ray Harryhausen movies, probably because of my dyslexia. I don’t read but I do watch a lot of films. I love 60’s and 70s films and my favourite are British films - ‘Quatermass and the Pit’, ‘Performance’, ‘Jason and the Argonauts’, ‘Get Carter’, ‘The long good Friday’, ‘The Ipcress File’, ‘The Devil Rides Out’, ‘Night of the Monster’, ‘James Bond’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Roller Ball’, all Hammer movies, ‘Fu Manchu’, ‘Alien’. It would be great to do a film season / selection like we used to do mix tapes and give them to friends. I recently did a show of my prints at the Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey. It was a perfect setting seeing the work in a Bar and alongside films. I want to do more of this…
Q. So you stopped working as a DJ and studied art at Goldsmiths University in London?
A. That’s like saying I gave up dancing to become a DJ. It’s been a development. I’d done all I needed to do as a dancer so I started to DJ, and then I started to make Art. The truth is I never stopped DJ’ing, I just stopped promoting my night “CARWASH UFO” every week and went to work for Manumission in Ibiza. They love my sense of mischief, after all they did book me for their opening night all those years ago… and what a night!
The move from DJ / Promoter to Artist was a development which allowed me to do more with the skills I’d practised, and the abilities to mix eclectic elements into a coherent performance or installation.
I’m very, very inquisitive and I needed to see what it was that had made so many exceptional artists come out of Goldsmiths University. And I like studying. It could be over compensation for my disability; being dyslexic I worry that people will think I’m stupid because I don’t read. And also as a night person I don’t have much to do in the daytime so going to universities had become like a hobby (when education used to be free).
I did a BA in Social Sciences – sociology, psychology, economics, history and politics at Portsmouth. Then I went on to study for two post graduate diplomas in youth work and recreational arts at Manchester before then going on to study Fine Art at Goldsmiths University in 2000.
Happily the spider venom has protected me from much of the dry, uninspired meanderings of academia and I was able to use my time thinking about society, economics, pop art, post modernism and printing. I concluded that for me, Art is happening more outside the Art school. I found riding my Lambretta around London much too tempting and the city very inspiring, just like a big movie set.
Goldsmiths University was a focused retreat and offered a re-energising sabbatical. It was all good for me as it did help me engage with my surroundings and widen my horizons.
I started to answer the question “where’s the art ?” And for me it was printing which allows a re-mixing of images with a blurring of boundaries. It is this which allows people to engage with the messages in individual ways - the final piece is always a collage of image, idea and medium… much like DJ’ing. My work always starts with an idea. Sometime it’s deep and sometimes it’s not so deep. It’s the thinking which motivates me.
I did go to art school but the night always owned my soul. While studying at Goldsmiths I was making films and Printing, and the DJ thing was working for me in New York and Ibiza.
As Lyn Collins told us, “We’re gonna use what we’ve got to get what we want!” So I do. My final degree show got reviewed in DJ magazine alongside club events. It involved two big works - a film of vintage Italian scooters, the high point of transport and design for our modern world and the start of the Gaia series with a massive Godzilla at London bridge print. The print was 20 by 50 feet - far too big, like an advertising hoarding for a film that only existed in my head, and now everyone else’s.
For ten years I’d used my art to create a buzz for the events or performances I was involved in, but after going to Goldsmiths the printing was taking over and I started making silk screen prints and selling them in 2004. The response has been amazing. I’ve found a medium that can express more of the mischief in my head, and as such, I’ve found something to do with the daylight hours. My love of films, sci-fi, music, philosophy, new science and mischief all combined.
I still work as a DJ in underground Funk clubs, a job that has transported me to great cities and luxury destinations around the globe. Yet still I love the rain and gothic charm of Manchester. The simple enjoyment of playing a collage of records and dancing has never left me. Printing has opened an even bigger possibility for my art to be seen by more people and it can last longer than one night, which could be a good thing…