AboutPaul Graham has always challenged his medium, working with its very nature, its dependence on light, its recognition of detail, its capacity to document of the moment. He has always sought the telling trace hinting at the broader picture, leaving out as much as he puts in. In this new body of work, however, he has addressed the material itself, the stuff that gave birth to the themes and series that measure out his extraordinary career.
While examining his work ofàÂ theàÂ pastàÂ 30àÂ yearsàÂ foràÂ theàÂ major survey exhibitionàÂ arrivingàÂ atàÂ theàÂ Whitechapel Gallery this month, Graham became enraptured wit h the base material of his craft and began to reflect upon the physical substance with which his images were made. Scanning the negatives for the exhibit ion, he beganàÂ alsoàÂ to scan the blank film ends and unexposed frames from each body of work. What Graham gathered in the process he saw as a ânegative retrospective' of his practice. These luscious and beguiling abstractàÂ imagesàÂ areàÂ nothingàÂ moreàÂ thanàÂ greatlyàÂ enlargedàÂ imagesàÂ ofàÂ rawàÂ filmàÂ emulsion,àÂ theàÂ colouràÂ dye clouds formedàÂ inàÂ the exposureàÂ and development ofàÂ film.àÂ
Kodacolour,àÂ Fujicolour,àÂ TriX;àÂ Ektacolour,àÂ Kodachrome àÂ all have goneàÂ foràÂ good oràÂ areàÂ fadingàÂ fast.àÂ SoàÂ her e isàÂ a homageàÂ toàÂ the history ofàÂ filmàÂ photography,àÂ a great romance that is nearly over, a farewell to its magic and its supremacy as the art medium of the 20th century,àÂ aàÂ trick ofàÂ science,àÂ conjured out of lightàÂ andàÂ crystal.àÂ
ThisàÂ probing ofàÂ theàÂ hiddenàÂ beautyàÂ of eachàÂ and every emulsion parallels the wonder of seeing the photographic image emerge in the darkroom; out of uninspiring snippetsàÂ ofàÂ celluloidàÂ aàÂ stunningàÂ auroraàÂ ofàÂ imagesàÂ comeàÂ toàÂ life.
For this exhibit ion t hese images, FILMS, are presented smallàÂ and jewellike,àÂ framedàÂ inàÂ aàÂ classicàÂ manner thatàÂ reflectsàÂ bothàÂ theiràÂ trueàÂ vintageàÂ associationsàÂ and endowsàÂ them withàÂ theàÂ respectàÂ thatàÂ theiràÂ âparents'àÂ truly deserve.