Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breaking Boundaries with Irish Artist Patrick Graham

by David Brinker

Patrick Graham has been credited by critics and art historians with changing the face of painting in Ireland. St. Louis audiences are now offered the rare opportunity to discover Graham's work with the exhibition, "Patrick Graham: Thirty Years–The Silence Becomes the Painting," on view September 23-December 16, 2012 at Saint Louis University’s Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA). Through paintings, collages and drawings, this retrospective exhibition, curated by noted art historian Peter Selz, offers an extraordinary view of the continuum that marks Graham’s psychologically charged explorations into revelation and transcendence.

Selz says that Graham “confronts the viewer with drawings and paintings of shattering force … [he] makes us aware that great painting has a presence and a future.” Art historian John Handley notes that Graham’s work “addresses the timelessness of time, the repetition of history, and the continuous cyclical nature of silence, abandonment, and redemption in the creative process.” In the artist’s own words, “The silence becomes the painting, the painting comes from silence. It is the moment when painting is no longer an act of doing or making but of receiving.”

Patrick Graham. Cold and Fatal Heroes. 1988. Mixed media on Board. 32"x 44". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.

Patrick Graham was born in Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland in 1943, and studied at the National College of Art in Dublin. He has exhibited in Ireland and internationally since 1966, and is represented in major public and private collections at home and abroad. Graham’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and symposia internationally, at venues including the National Gallery of Ireland, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Trinity College Dublin, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England, the Hokkaido Museum in Hokkaido, Japan, the University of Michigan, Northeastern University in Boston, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Patrick Graham. Dead Swan/Captain's Hill. 1998-99. Oil, Mixed media on Canvas, diptych 72"x132". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.

Graham’s inspiration is deeply rooted in the Irish landscape, in vistas and places that hold deep meaning for him. The Irish affinity for nature, combined with profound experience of the pain which comes from both oppression and repression, has led to extraordinary artistic expressions in poetry, music, and dance. This cultural and artistic milieu formed Graham’s visual expression. His work incorporates ambiguous symbolic forms and scripted phrases that resonate like fragments of traditional song and lyrical poetry which spring from a unique historical consciousness; through them he explores the elemental processes of life and the existential journey. Among the realities he acknowledges in a sensitive voice is the Irish religious experience, particularly of the Catholic faith, yet his work has universal appeal to those who struggle with issues of identity, freedom, or faith.

Patrick Graham. The Blackbird Suite. 1993. Mixed media on Board. 32"x 44". Courtesy Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles.

To further explore Graham’s impact, MOCRA has assembled "Breaking Boundaries: A Conversation about the Art of Patrick Graham," a panel discussion that brings together five distinguished voices to consider Graham's work from diverse perspectives:
  • Peter Selz, art historian and curator
  • Ken Baker, Chief Art Critic, San Francisco Chronicle 
  • Jack Rutberg, gallery director and international representative of Patrick Graham
  • Ellen Crowell, Associate Professor of English, Saint Louis University
  • Eamonn Wall, Smurfit-Stone Corporation Professor of Irish Studies, University of Missouri - St. Louis
The panel is free & open to the public and will take place at MOCRA from 1:30-3:30 p.m., Sunday, November 11, 2012. A reception will follow the discussion, with an opportunity to view the exhibition.

"Patrick Graham: Thirty Years–The Silence Becomes the Painting," is presented through December 16, 2012 at Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA) is located on the campus of Saint Louis University in Fusz Hall, 3700 John Connelly Mall (SW of clock tower), St. Louis, MO 63108. 314/977-7170. http://mocra.slu.edu MOCRA is free & open to the public Tuesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. 


David Brinker is Assistant Director of Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO.