“Graham confronts the viewer with drawings and paintings of shattering force … [he] makes us aware that great painting has a presence and a future.”
– Peter Selz
“In Graham, Ireland finally has a painter-draughtsman to match its writers.”
– Peter Frank
“Patrick Graham’s paintings are masterpieces … on a grand physical, emotional and intellectual scale … they are among the most complicated salient reflections on modern existence that have been made.”
– Donald Kuspit
Los Angeles, CA – “Patrick Graham – Thirty Years: The Silence Becomes the Painting”, a survey exhibition of major paintings and drawings at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, will be extended through September 24, 2016. This enthusiastically received exhibition was the subject of a national museum tour curated by the distinguished critic and art historian Peter Selz, former curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the founding Director of the University of California Berkeley Art Museum.
This is a rare opportunity to view the works of this important contemporary artist, recognized in Ireland as a “living national treasure” (member of Aosdana). The exhibition includes iconic large-scale paintings and complex mixed media drawings, deeply rooted in the Irish landscape that hold personal and symbolic references combined with experiences of both oppression and repression. Patrick Graham’s psychologicallycharged work journeys into revelation and transcendence. These images commonly contain symbolic forms and scripted phrases that resonate like fragments of traditional song and lyrical poetry which spring from a unique historical consciousness, exploring both personal and Irish history, repression, identity, faith, mortality and sexuality. Drawings of the male and female figure and self-portraits are central to Patrick Graham’s art. This thirty year survey includes iconic works from the early 1980s where Graham initially utilized a dense pallet that evokes Irish soil, both literally and symbolically. In the years since, Graham has increasingly distilled his composition with often minimal, poetic mark-making, smudges, tears and creases in creating complex and poignant images in unexpected ways.
Patrick Graham was born in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland in 1943. According to art historians and critics, the impact that Patrick Graham has had on Irish art is without precedent. His remarkable talent for drawing was realized as a child. At 13 years of age, Graham apprenticed to an artist in Mullingar. Unbeknownst to the young Graham, his mentor submitted his drawings to competitions and was awarded a scholarship for which he was too young to qualify. At age 16, he accepted a 3 year scholarship to the National College of Art in Dublin (the youngest ever to do so); later rejecting one offered by the Royal College of Art in London.
At college, Graham was met with tremendous adulation from a following that included his professors. The burden he perceived as an “unearned gift” bore heavily on Graham. At that time in Ireland’s academic environs, the notion of art as a vehicle for personal expression had not reached legitimacy and not a single volume on modern art could be found in the National College library. Graham continued to receive accolades, all the while battling his own perception of the “emptiness” of art as mere facility of hand and craft. It was upon his first exposure to the works of Emil Nolde in a small exhibition in Dublin that Graham was first introduced to art’s expressive potential. Initially railing against Nolde’s works, as they opposed the tenets of academic art, Graham’s personal battle intensified and deteriorated into a dramatic war for sanity and survival that lasted a number of years. During this period Graham reached depths from which few emerge.
An important turning point came in 1974, with the public reemergence of Patrick Graham in a solo exhibition entitled Notes From A Mental Hospital and Other Love Stories. Although there were conservative critics who were outraged by Graham’s “abandonment” of his earlier displayed talents, there were those who acknowledged that from this point emerged the evolution of a new expression in the art of Ireland. Graham’s influence in Ireland is widely acknowledged and he became officially recognized by Ireland as a “living national treasure” through his election to its Aosdana Society in 1986.
Patrick Graham’s works were first exhibited in America to dramatic response in 1986 when the exhibition, Four Irish Expressionists, was presented by North Eastern University and Boston College. For the occasion, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts presented a symposium where Graham’s works were singled out for critical acclaim by panelists including noted art historian and critic Donald Kuspit.
In 1987, Graham’s first American gallery exhibition was presented here at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts to equally formidable response. One of the most overused descriptions of an artist is the reference to being “an artist’s artist”. Patrick Graham, however, has brought a new dimension to that description. In each of Graham’s gallery exhibitions, artists were conspicuously counted among those acquiring his works. In one exhibition alone, nine works were acquired by other artists; perhaps an unprecedented statistic in any gallery’s history.
His work is represented in major public and private collections internationally, and has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and symposiums at the National Gallery of Ireland, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Trinity College, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, American University in Washington, D.C., Northeastern University, Walker Art Gallery in England, Saint Louis University, Stephen Austin University in Texas, the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and
Hokkaido Museum in Japan, among others.
“Patrick Graham – Thirty Years: The Silence Becomes the Painting” is accompanied by a 98-page exhibition catalogue, with essays and text by Peter Selz, and art historians Jarrett Earnest, John Handley, and the artist himself. The publication and museum exhibition tour were produced by The Society for Art Publications of the Americas with the support of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts and Culture Ireland (that nation’s equivalent of the National Endowment for the Arts).