As likely to reference Mickey Mouse or Kate Moss as it is Zygmunt Bauman, artist Chris Graham’s work is a complex, nuanced and dazzling blend of radical dissent, catharsis, and critique of institutional power. It’s also underpinned by a conviction that Art should not only reflect but meaningfully chime with everyday life, not be marooned in some bloodless cultural ghetto: ‘I think Art should try to reconnect us to life, not hide life from us, in some art wankery, intellectual, pseudo scientific, international art language, codified, elitist fucking bollocks. In blue, to match your fucking sofa!’
For our 2015 members’ exhibition, Chris produced Un: Tit: Led, an installation that emerged from research into the African Gulags, both historic and contemporary, and that was fashioned from VHS cassette tape taken from copies of Cy Endfield’s 1963 favourite Zulu and an assortment of (slightly less celebrated) hardcore porn films.
In summer 2016, Chris collaborated with regular sparring partner and fellow BSA resident Bryan Eccleshall on Collateral Damage, an installation inspired by Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa and the current refugee crisis, which also produced a series of limited edition, handmade books. Collateral Damage built on themes that Chris and Bryan had explored in their Sans Terre / + exhibition, memorably documented by Sheffield filmmaker and artist Richard Bolam.
Chris’s current project with us involves him taking over our atrium space, making (and remaking) an ongoing installation that began with only a rough outline: ‘I never have a solid plan, a finish line, as to what I make, because each shit is a new start to a new day and that can lead anywhere.’ This short film made by Bryan Eccleshall shows Chris installing the second phase of the Atrium Occupation and talking about its background, and the images below offer a glimpse of the work so far:
In 2016, Chris was interviewed at length by author Jude Calvert-Toulmin, speaking with typical candidness about the stuff he makes and why he makes it: ‘I work 24/7, 365 days a year as an Artist. I have no fucking days off. There ain’t no money in it for me, but I don’t make my shit for the money, I make my shit because I have to. It’s a form of therapy for me. It keeps me able to continue.’ It’s essential reading for anybody interested in the singular nature of Chris and his work. This review of one of Chris’s shows by David Gilbert of Axis Web is also well worth a look.