Privileged to have been born in, and still be living in, Dorset, England, I was more than aware from an early age of the visual opportunities afforded by a county rich in examples of prehistoric adornment.
A necessity to probe even further back into our evolutionary development was activated by my chance encounter one still evening in 1981 with a hunter-gatherer excavation at Hengistbury Head, a coastal gathering site. Peering over protective fencing, I was instantly captivated by what was a standard archaeological dig. Something about the layering of sands, silts and loams, the scattering of flint and gravel, the reawakening of a now heather-fringed past that had witnessed the cessation of the last Ice Age moved me profoundly. Before me lay material that offered meaningful potential. Taken aback by my own reaction, here unexpectedly was the catalyst for subject matter that would engross me for years to come.
What ensued was a body of work in which I could investigate, speculate and improvise on the complex procedures central to mankind's evolution.
A reason to make art
Variations in terrain, often modified by climatic change, fossilised remains, an abundance of tools and artefacts as well as the vestiges of hearths, habitats and living floors, have all been considered, often celebrated.
The relative paucity of information so far available from deep time denies the more obvious opportunities that an abundance of material could provide. Mystery excites, the unknown is tantalising, less is more. I can but attempt, through paint, to acknowledge, even record, a few transitory moments of experience from the extended passage of time in which human development has gradually taken hold.
My reason for making art has benefited from the necessary research that had to be undertaken during many visits to often quite obscure locations. Friendships have also been generated with many, often prominent, members of both the arts and science communities. Archaeologists and anthropologists have helped my understanding of material; conversations with authors, poets and composers have taken my thinking in unexpected directions.
In 1998, Hart Gallery, London, Nottingham and Cornwall, invited me to become one of their stable of artists, a relationship which lasted until their closure, for fourteen years. They provided the necessary support that professional artists require, facilitating valuable exhibitions. For this, I thank them.
Brian Graham in his studio 2013
Photo courtesy of Hattie Miles