MOCRA’s latest exhibition opened this past Sunday. Patrick Graham: Thirty Years – The Silence Becomes the Painting offers a survey of work by Patrick Graham, frequently cited as Ireland’s most important contemporary artist. Through paintings, collages, and drawings, this retrospective curated by distinguished art historian Peter Selz offers an extraordinary view of the continuum that marks Graham’s psychologically charged explorations into revelation and transcendence.
There is no doubt that this is work that challenges viewers. As we note in the text accompanying the exhibition, Graham’s art may be hard to like, but it is impossible to disrespect it. Patrick Graham has been credited by critics and art historians with changing the face of painting in Ireland. Art historian, writer and curator Peter Selz, who curated this exhibition, 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.”
Graham is a thoughtful and articulate man, as interviews with him make clear. His own words provide the title to the exhibition. He muses, “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.”
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 is widely regarded as Ireland’s most important contemporary artist, and has been recognized by Ireland as a “living national treasure” through his induction into Aosdána (a society that honors outstanding work in the arts) since 1986. 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: Thirty Years – The Silence Becomes the Painting was organized by Meridian Gallery/Society for Art Publications with the support of Jack Rutberg Fine Arts in Los Angeles, international agent for Patrick Graham. The exhibition at MOCRA follows showings in San Francisco at the Meridian Gallery of the Society for Art Publications of the Americas and in Washington, D.C., at the Katzen Arts Center of American University. The exhibition is supported by Culture Ireland, the Irish national body for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide.
The exhibition will be on display at MOCRA through December 16, 2012. Learn more here.
— David Brinker, Assistant Director