"Untitled (Studies for the Blackbird Suite)",
mixed media on board, 81 x 112 cm, 1993.
"Somewhere Jerusalem", oil/mixed media
on canvas, 5 1/2 x 13'.
"The Blackbird Suite", mixed media on
board, 81 x 112 cm, 1992-93.
"The Lark in the Morning", oil/mixed media
on canvas, 7 x 14', 1991-93.
by Marge Bulmer
(Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, West Hollywood) Patrick Graham's superb draftsmanship and technical accomplishment communicates significant content. His passionate paintings, filled with suffering, tragedy, loss, pain, mourning and death, also speak of birth, release, freedom, ecstasy, transcendence and redemption. His explosive, abstract expressionist gesture combined with tender figurative drawings, markings and scratchings, allow you to take part in the artist's aesthetic process.
A spinner of tales, Graham specializes in epic scaled works with jigsaw hints that scatter throughout a sus- tained tension. Although they are self-reflecting mirrors, the prism also reflects back on you to stimulate your own personal memories. Repeated looking will reward you with new clues to your own emotional life.
The work here is more subdued and has a lighter palette than in his previous show in L.A., which reverberated with a helpless fury that conveyed unrelenting social suffering. The nudes may be seen as "truncated, bleeding, constricted" morbid carcasses, but equally as images of joy that express an explosive life force. In Lark in the Morning, I the left panel displays, front and center, a protruding, vaginal image capped with gold, a red heart above it, and child-like stick drawings of trees and flowers blossom around it. On the right panel floating, torn sheets or sails float above chalice-like vessels. Delicate markings, scratchings, and abstract pencil scribblings hold the composition stable. Across the top of the piece, written in white on gray, reads the phrase, "The lark in the morning. She rises off her nest, and she comes home in the evening with the dew all on her breast." The painting conveys that someone had one hell of a good time the night before--presumably Patrick Graham.
Somewhere in Jerusalem, another large scale diptych that is connected by loose canvas in the middle, resembles a book, a folio. At the top, between the two panels, are two small blue satin roses on either side of a fragment of pearl jewelry. A floating, large kidney shape encrusted with silver glitter and the word "Terra" printed beneath indicates a sense of nostalgia, perhaps a search for place. Despite the dark image of a door leading to the unknown, this painting is not despairing in tone. It may be mournful, but it is also rich, plentiful and vital. It is the physicality, the energy in the application of globs of paint, that effects its feeling of hope.
Five centuries ago Leonardo da Vinci wrote, "When you look at a wall spotted with stains. . .you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes, beautified with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, or again you may see battles and figures in action or strange faces and costumes and an endless variety of objects which you could reduce to complete and well-drawn forms. And these appear on such walls confusedly, like the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you choose to imagine." Graham draws together jangling strands of private, personal narrative out of the soul's wall stains. His work argues that the repression of emotion makes tragedy inevitable and unbearable. It enables you to identify with both victim and perpetrator, both susceptible to a myriad of paradoxical emotions. Despite what John Hutchinson described as the artist's "subterranean connection with death," this work finally affirms that humanity is a worthy invention. Graham wishes the world well.