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