Joseph Grahame is finishing up his BA from the University of Leeds as we speak, and I'm happy to share his minimal, sewn-canvas paintings here! We chat about his influences, the impact that a painting can have on a viewer, and the uncertainty that comes with pursuing an artistic career path. More at the links below!
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First, I'd like to know a bit about you! Can you introduce yourself? Where are you from, and where are you based now?
I'm an artist from Leeds, UK.
I was born in Leeds, then moved to London when I was 18 to study at Goldsmiths, ended up moving back up to the north to study at the University of Leeds. I am currently in my final year there and will be graduating from a BA Fine Art this year.
What first interested you in making art?
I've always been drawn to making art and drawing since I was a very young child, but I think I became more serious about it when I went to LCA, an art school teaching diploma and foundation courses. There I had an incredible tutor, Duncan Mosley, who introduced me to the work of artists such as Cy Twombly, Callum Innes, Christopher Wool and Philip Guston and many more. I think this was when I began to take art, and painting in particular seriously. I realised that painting could be engaged with exploring the materials and paint itself, which really excited me.
What has your art education been like, formally and/or informally?
I went straight from secondary school to a specialist art school, LCA to study an Extended Diploma in Art and Design for two years. From there I moved down to London to study at Goldsmiths, for a year before moving back to Leeds to begin a BA Fine Art course at the University of Leeds. I am graduating from there this year and planning on studying an MA in Fine Art next year.
Your practice seems to concentrate on the idea of the surface of the painting as much as the painting itself, especially in your use of sewn textile. Can you tell me some more about your work?
I think you are right, I'm very interested in the surface and materiality of the canvas as much as the painting itself. In these recent works, I have been making paintings in both an outdoor studio space and indoor. Mostly painting the canvas on the floor, I came across the fact that the canvas would pick up any dirt or debris from the studio floor. Instead of this being a negative thing, it really became exciting for me. It allowed the canvas to lose this preciousness that is often associated with painting. These accidental marks and traces of dirt / dust let the work almost breathe in a way, and challenged what I thought painting was or should be.
What is the thing that intrigues you or challenges you the most about painting, or the ideas related to it?
I am still intrigued by the effect that a painting can have upon someone. I remember seeing a Cy Twombly show at Gagosian in London a few years back and just being completely stunned and speechless after leaving from how powerful the work was. It just captivated me and was an almost spiritual experience in a way. It's extremely interesting to me that something as traditional as pigment applied to canvas can still have such a compelling affect upon the viewer.
In my own practice I think that the main thing that intrigues me about painting is the process by which it can be applied, and how abstraction can occur through using various techniques to get the paint onto (or off) the surface.
Do you do any research or preparation of any kind before beginning a new piece?
My research mostly occurs through physical experimentation with materials. I do read a lot about other artists that I admire, and sometimes this can spark something in my own practice, but the work usually takes its form through exploring the paint and materials.
What is your studio like?
At the moment, I'm in between studio spaces as I'm graduating in a few weeks. This was my studio yesterday, which is actually quite tidy because I've just got some paintings back from a solo exhibition that ended last week. It's usually a mess, with various bits of material covering the floor.
What do you think is the most challenging or daunting part of pursuing an artistic practice, whether creatively or professionally? What do you do to get through it?
The most daunting part is the uncertainty of it, but I think you can get through it by just working and focusing yourself on what you are really interested in. You have to be really invested and committed to your practice. When I feel particularly challenged by it, I usually try to make a lot of work until I find an idea engaging.
What is the best advice you've received?
To just continue making work, especially if you are in a creative rut or think that it's not working out. Things can happen through the process of making, and sometimes these are the things that end up moving the work forward.
What do you want to learn more about, or challenge yourself to master, in regard to your practice?
I'm really just committed to painting and its processes. I hope to learn more about painting, and also challenge certain ideas that have been attached to its history. I am trying to better understand what it means to make paintings now within contemporary art.
What do you need most, or value most, as an artist?
A commitment to the work you make, and time.
What are you working on right now?
I'm currently working on a series of paintings that challenge the scale that I've previously used. I am using materials that I've not had much experience with before, which is interesting.
Anything else you would like to add?
I'd just like to say thank you Kate for taking the time to talk with me!
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