The women in Graham Little's virtuoso drawings inhabit a world of sumptuous beauty. Realised in a muted Merchant Ivory palette, these long-limbed belles recline gracefully in designer interiors. This is an ‘80s world of midnight-blue suits and earth-coloured bed sheets, of abandoned stilettos in burnt orange and mustard-yellow upholstery. Even when Little's exquisite handling of light hints at baroque painting, the contours of everything he depicts look downy-soft.’
- Skye Sherwin, ‘Artist of the Week’, The Guardian, 2010
For his fourth solo exhibition at Alison Jacques Gallery artist Graham Little will present a selection of intricate gouaches completed over the past two years. Whilst Little’s previous works focused on the language of drawing and the figure in isolation this exhibition focuses on the language of painting and a subjects relationship to a specific environment. Each of the paintings depicts a single female figure in a distinct yet ambiguous surrounding. Frozen in a moment of contemplation these women appear completely immersed in their various activities, yet somehow aware of the fact that they are being watched. Whilst their clothing or accessories allude to one era their surroundings often suggest another, abstractly referring to an overarching narrative which is impossible to define. It is the artist’s purposeful ambiguity that allows his narratives to expand in a variety of ways, based on a viewer’s familiarity or affinity with a particular environment, fabric, or colour.
While the concentration on beauty in Little’s drawings conjures the Aesthetic movement of the 19th century, the artist’s methodical practice and emphasis on compositional balance also recalls properties of modernism. In ‘Untitled (Glass Curtain)’, 2014, a woman looks contemplatively out of her window, examining the delicate glass loops of a curtain that could likely be a figment of her imagination. In ‘Untitled (Kitchen)’, 2014, Little contrasts the geometric window blinds and bare surroundings with the soft fragility of the woman’s features and the terra cotta architecture of an English town, creating a different timbre for each area. Although she is situated in what appears to be a simple, utilitarian kitchen her gold watch, heirloom jewellery and slender fingers suggest a more glamorous past than the one we are glimpsing, and a plethora of possibilities begin to unfold.
Little’s play with different languages is not only articulated with his various painting styles, but also the source of imagery he employs. Over the past three decades the artist has accumulated an extensive archive of imagery from which he works. Photographs of women and clothing from health and lifestyle, fashion and beauty publications are merged with historical landscapes and 1970s table spreads. His delicate, precise brushstrokes disregard the hierarchy of objects as he renders dresses and landscapes with the same incredible detail he employs when painting a bracelet or a stapler. Combining history with modernity Little entrances us with his heightened sensitivity and ability to create narratives that will only become more fascinating with time.
Graham Little (b. Dundee, UK, 1972) graduated with an MA from Goldsmiths College, London (1997). Museum shows include Camden Arts Centre, London (2001); Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at MoMA, New York (2002); Images of Society at Kunstmuseum, Thun (2003); WALL ROCKETS: Contemporary Artists and Ed Ruscha, curated by Lisa Dennison at The FLAG Art Foundation, New York (2008), The Associates, Dundee Contemporary Art Centre, Dundee (2009); and Lebenslust & Totentanz at Kunsthalle, Krems (2010). Museum collections include: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; MOCA, Los Angeles and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.