Closer brings together prints, photographs and sculpture by Graham Fagen. A unique chance to get closer to the thinking, ideas and research that forms Fagen’s ‘library of ideas’ and his understanding of ‘cultural formers’.
Fagen whose Killing Time, a collaborative work with the director of Suspect Culture, Graham Eatough, has just ended at Dundee Contemporary Arts and received huge critical acclaim, is an artist who explores situations, scenarios and individuals to reveal overlooked or discarded historical incidents. He investigates those moments where coincidence and twists of fate take a story in a very different direction.
The most innovative artists are those most aware of the ironies of histories:
personal and political, local and international. Such concerns are very clear in
Graham Fagen’s work. Central to all of it is the nature of communication,
as often as not failed or ambiguous or compromised.
from Love is Lovely, Fruitmarket Gallery, 2002
Arguably Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) is the one of Scotland’s most iconic and romanticised of figures. But it could have been otherwise. Bell, Nancy and Roselle form a set of new prints by Fagen which record Burns’ attempts to emigrate from Scotland to Jamaica. Burns booked 3 separate passages, two from Greenock and one from Leith all of which he decided not to take. This was in part due to the success of his first published poems: it was no longer an economic or social imperative to leave Scotland while the drawing rooms of Edinburgh welcomed in the ‘ploughman poet’.
As a child, growing up in so-called ‘Burns’ Country’, Fagen and his schoolmates would recite Burns on Burns’ Day but as his cultural horizons broaden Fagen developed a fascination for reggae and the far off land of Jamaica which of course links back to Burns. A sense of the far off is achieved in West Coast Looking West (Atlantic) 2006. An unseen sun shines down on the water: the image is clearly one of looking out to un/know ‘new world’. In a new photographic work Self Portrait as the Devil, Fagen appears to identify himself as a ‘devil my care’ harlequin, the mute character that appears to move surreptitiously between scenes and situations, always the witness, never the player.
Plants have always played an important part in Graham Fagen’s thinking, their symbolism which is frequently localised and coded. His bronze immature fir tree Annual Perennial looks tragic, inappropriately dressed in fairy lights denuded of any sense of the festive. It appears to be act of humiliation.
Graham Fagen (born Glasgow 1966) studied at Kent Institute of Art & Design, Canterbury and at Glasgow School of Art. He is currently exhibiting Killing Time at Dundee Contemporary Arts until 5 November. Recent solo exhibitions include Tart Contemporary, San Francisco; True Love, City Projects, London and Clean Hands Pure Heart, Tramway, Glasgow (2005); Theatre, Photogallery, Chapter, Cardiff; Benim Evim Neresi with Flavio Favelli, Macka Sanat Gallery, Istanbul (2003); Love is Lovely, Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh; Graham Fagen at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London (curated by Kay Pallister) (2002) and Theatre, Imperial War Museum, London (2001). British Art Show 5, Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff & Birmingham. Fagen lives and works in Glasgow.