graham ward: part one

King of Finisterre

Having shown you the painting Bird with a Dark Vessel by Graham Ward in an Artlog post a couple of days ago, I thought it would be interesting to do a post dedicated to the artist’s work. I first mentioned Graham on the Artlog back in May, and you can read what I wrote about him then HERE.

In the intervening years between the first acquisition we made of his painting titled Portland Bill, and the painting Bird with Dark Vessel that arrived at Ty Isaf a couple of weeks ago, his technique has changed subtly but significantly. The almost enamelled sheen of his earlier work has given way to a rougher texture and the sense of the artist layering paint as he quarries the images from his imagination. I like this rougher surface. Though Graham is never less than supremely confident as a draughtsman, the roughness has the effect of making the paintings even more heartfelt. Perhaps even harder won. Speaking for myself as a painter, the best things are always the ones that take the most effort to bring to completion, though there’s a fine line to be trod twixt a painting looking as though a battle has been fought and won over it, and looking as though the effort is being ostentatiously displayed. Graham would never be so unsubtle as to fall into the latter trap, but it’s good to see his work bearing the signs of layering and adjustment that indicate… for those who are looking… that his process of creativity is active throughout the making of a painting.

There are passages of luminous fragility in the compositions. Those tender, transparent doves clustered on the King of Finisterre’s outstretched arms for example. Gradations of tone and colour please the eyes wherever they rest. (The ghost of Paul Klee casts its light over those backgrounds crowded with schematic shapes of buildings, orchards and gardens.) Note too the meticulous organisation at the edges of his paintings. Nothing unceremoniously sliding off the compositions. Just beautifully judged arrangements of objects, sometimes with the barest thread of space between them and the edges. Like a good juggler, the artist keeps everything in the air!

Click on The King of Finisterre to get a high magnification of it. The artist uses a technique sometimes called ‘starved-brush’. A brush from which most of the paint has been wiped away, leaves a ‘broken’ stroke through which underlying colours can show through. In Graham’s work when a starved brush rakes across the rough surface of a painting, there is a pleasing graininess to the effect that he uses masterfully in his tonal effects. (Eric Ravilious famously used starved brushwork in his water-colours, allowing the white paper ground to break through the colour  and create a illusion of glittering light.)

I shall write more about Graham’s work in a second post.

Child in Tarifa

Angel Entering a City

11 thoughts on “graham ward: part one

  1. Hi I am trying to get a valuation on a couple of Graham Ward pictures and have no idea where to start. Can anyone help?

  2. You and I corresponded about Graham’s work before, so it’s not new to me, but it’s an indication of the quality of these paintings that they look absolutely fresh now, seeing them again. Thanks.

  3. I always enjoy your glances about at other artists in your world. Great charm in these… and the space so elaborately laid out. Finisterre and Tarifa: Spain? There are a lot of Finisterre variants. Or simply Finisterre the end of the earth… that seems more like it!

  4. wow! “king of finisterre” is really a work of magic! i really like the rough texture and the large shapes which make the birds and his little hands seem even more delicate. thank you so much for this post!

    • Graham would make the most wonderful puppets, wouldn’t he? There’s something of the universal in his figures. Everyman voyaging out, part hero, part child, vulnerable and enquiring and with the courage of the completely innocent. In another life he might have made stop-motion animated films, like the great Czech illustrator and film maker Jiri Trnka.

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