Making is at the core of the multiple practices of Richard Graham. He takes pleasure and pride in the hands-on physicality of fashioning objects. By expanding and experimenting with these skills, this London-based art fabricator is in demand. His recent output includes illuminated signage and sets for Punchdrunk’s immersive theatrical experience The Drowned Man and a 3D statue of ‘Ricky Rouse’, based on graphic novelists Jörg Tittel and John Aggs’ satirical Chinese imitation of Disney’s iconic rodent (below in the window of Gosh! Comics). From this prototype, Graham is envisaging further character-based sculpture commissions.
Whether making sculptures and installations for other artists or for department stores, fashion brands and advertising companies, Graham is aware of the inherent contradictions: “On the one hand, I am creating and crafting which I love, but this making is not a personal vision of the world, but rather someone else’s.” In his self-directed work, Graham’s ‘lateral seeing’ can repurpose the most random rubbish into pun-filled assemblages. For his first solo exhibition in London, he collaged faces and profiles of dogs from brushes, scraps of underlay, chains, tools and whatever. “I named them ‘ouR Mutt’s’ as a reference to the father figure of the ‘ready-made’ objet d’art, Marcel Duchamp.”
Among Graham’s most striking large-scale sculptures is an owl composed from a bath tub, ironing boards, pitch forks, a baby’s pram for eyes and a pair of yellow stiletto heels for its beak. He has also applied this process to print, turning a birdcage head, a suitcase body, saws for wings and twigs for legs into the hero of Junk Birds, the first of his mixed-media children’s books (an extract has been animated by Kit Ingham here…). Not some Photoshop virtualities but actual constructions, these sometimes also serve as templates for his illustration projects, such as another children’s book entitled The Cranky Caterpillar (below) and a proposed graphic novel, Peripheral Vision.
His new Strip for ArtReview magazine (below), ‘Life Drawing’, relates to this latter project. As Graham explains, “I have found photographic comics hugely under-explored and conceptual art a bit boring. So out of my play I have ended up bolting the two mediums together to create something new.” Graham mischievously reinterprets Cesare Ripa’s allegorical figure of Art from his influential 1645 emblem book, casting himself as the artist’s model. now holding a banana and yo-yo. “This strip is a moment of reflection about the making of others’ interpretations. A fleeting move from craftsman to artist.”
Posted: October 13, 2014
This Article originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of ArtReview.