Gareth Graham ‘by the sea’ – Seaforth TVH Gallery

The work I am producing for the upcoming exhibition By the Sea at TVH Gallery is a themed group of pieces, exploring the figure, at the beach. Of course the beach is implied through the group of figures in beach attire. In this they act as an installation where I intend to build spatial relationships between individual pieces that will contribute to the meaning of particular works. My choice of theme and subject continues my exploration of the figure and where, in the past, I have often worked with the nude, my intention is to contemporise this through the addition of beach-ware and accessories. The figures remain the focus but they are no longer timeless or purely traditional representations but contemporary “classical style” works. This combination is where my current practice sits. I am intrigued by the crossover between what is conveyed through traditional process and aesthetic whilst exploring contemporary subject matter. Without their clothes, or in other attire, these figures could be derived from Canova’s oeuvre. However, by removing the allegorical and historical themes, I engage my figures in the small, insignificant experiences of contemporary life that the audience engages with based on personal experience.

My interest in the figure is as a timeless subject yet one which provides relevant subject matter in a contemporary context. In my work I explore aspects of human experience; experience that is not dramatic or based on great actions but rather, my focus is the experience of emotions and thoughts, expressed through gesture and expression. In particular, the human face and portraiture are a major interest, having focussed some attention on exploring notions of thought and contemplation through expression. This theme links in closely with my process, where the time spent in the studio is crucial, in a sense, a meditative process in itself, where a work can involve for example, over 50 hours of hand sanding alone. Process for me, is inextricably linked to the finished work, where the time spent somehow imbues the quiet, static sculptures with a more substantial presence. This is a feeling that impressed itself upon me in my late teens when I stood observing great, classical sculpture in European museums – the time taken and how the artists achieved the incredible surfaces and forms. My intention is, as a contemporary hero of mine Rick Swallow has stated of his own work, ‘to slow down time for the viewer’. In an artworld where there is so much screaming at us, my concern continues to be with the ability to quietly contemplate an object and to empathise with the simple human experience that is conveyed.

My studio practice is more or less self-taught, having begun by making small works at school for art projects, my interest in sculpting and sculpture motivated me to continue working, developing and extending my skills, working often in decorative relief and then in-the-round. At uni I focused on ceramics, the opposite process to reduction carving which I enjoyed and reinforced my spatial awareness in sculpting. I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to work in Huon Pine, an exceedingly fine and receptive material. This has become my medium of choice, having sourced a significant quantity of large pieces from Tasmania. The material for me, with its fine grain and light colour, resembles marble, the medium of classical sculpture from where, in many ways, my inspiration is derived. In more recent years, I have produced small works in marble, while visiting the sculpture studios in Carrara, Italy. Marble is an ultimate material for me in many ways in its purity and austere coolness. However, the living nature of timber provides elements of aesthetic interruption where I deliberately leave voids in space and the subject is cropped by the natural boundary of the material. I enjoy playing with the surfaces and abstract qualities offered by the dynamism of the once living tree.

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Gareth Graham

BORN Newcastle 1980. EDUCATION Attended school till year 12 at Newcastle Waldorf School Commenced Bachelor of Fine Art 2001 – Awarded First Class Honours and Faculty medal in Fine Art … read more →