Is an artist based in Montreal.
'2013' will be showing at Monastiraki from April 3-27.
On 3 April, 2014, the year 2013 is revisited by a crowd of people relishing one of the first days of spring in Montreal. The window is full of fresh flowers in dialogue with a 5-foot-tall, 3-dimensional pyramid characterized by bold colors contained in a geometric style. The works on the wall are highly mathematical and controlled, but the order lends a sense of calm instead of restriction. Inviting its viewer to think about the past in its relationship to history, the present, and the future, Graham Hall’s work succeeds as both retrospect and potentiality. Once the crowd thinned out nearing the end of the night, I had the chance to talk with Graham about his work, steamies vs toasties, and Muddy Waters.
Just to open it up, tell us a bit about the body of work – any inspiration, challenges, etc?
Initially this work was inspired by a couple of postcards that I dug out of my files, which I had initially bought many years ago in Venice, which depicted some of the floor pavements in the Basilica St. Marco, attributed to Paolo Uccello – the Great Renaissance Master. I wanted to see if I could reproduce them in some kind of way. I liked the 3-D effects in them and I was attracted to trying to be very, very precise in the making of the work. It was kind of a personal challenge, I guess, to see if I could do it and see where I could take it after I theoretically would be able to do it. Because it’s very, very math-based, lots of geometry, and I’ve always been terrified of mathematics (laughter).
Do you think that there’s a specific time and place in the artist’s life when a personal challenge is necessary?
For me, it’s something that comes up constantly, but without realizing that I’m setting it up. I’ve produced several bodies of work over the years, that were very interesting to me initially, just to do, to make something that would hopefully be beautiful in the end, but that then required (as the series went on) a really serious amount of heavy work. A really, really tight, labor-intensive process. And I guess the reason that I follow through with it is because I either know that the end result will be great, because of the first couple of attempts, or I’m looking forward to what the result will be, which is an unknown. If I do this, and this and this and this, eventually I will come to an end and then I’ll have this thing, if all goes well (laughter).
Even if the end isn’t necessarily ideal, the piece still exists.
To me it matters that you get to that point. The work will often start in a very expressive way, and usually very, very quickly it turns into that labor-intensive process that has in its sights, in the end, the creation of a piece that I want to look at.
Why are there flowers in the window tonight?
Another inspiration for this body of work was the reading of Umberto Eco’s On Beauty, so I became interested in beauty and ideas of beauty. And flowers, I think it’s pretty generally agreed, are beautiful things, so that’s one aspect of flowers in the window. I had conceived of the idea of having an abundance of flowers in the window prior to the passing of my former professor, Maestro Peter Porcal, and since his passing, it sort of turned into this idea of not just celebrating spring and having joy in the beauty of flowers, but also, kind of a tribute to this great man who influenced me in so many ways.
What is your favorite Montreal food joint when you’re drunk?
Usually at home (laughter). But on the rare occasion that I am out on the town, getting shit-faced, very rare occasion, Chez Claudette is a hop, skip and a jump away from where I live, so I guess if I were to choose something, it would be something that is close to home, so that I can then stumble up the stairs with a belly full of poutine.
Toastie or Steamie?
Best new book you’ve read?
I’ve not quite finished it, but, I have been reading, very slowly, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?. Which is amazing. Sheila, I knew, not very well – friends of friends – back when I lived in Toronto. In fact, back then, she was the first person whom I didn’t know very well, who told me that they really enjoyed my artwork. So I felt it important to read one of her books. The funny thing is, I know a few people in the book (laughter). Not well, but I definitely know some of them, and I certainly know many of the places. It feels very familiar, and especially the situations that she’s writing about, for me, over the past couple of months, I very much identify with.
What music are you listening to?
Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of electric blues. I recently bought Muddy Waters’ 1968 electric album called Electric Mud, which is really awesome. It’s pretty clear that they’re just jamming away. There’s a really out-of-tune clarinet solo in one of the songs, which is a little bit off-putting, but most of it is this really great bluesy – well, not just bluesy – but full on Muddy Waters blues, fuzzed-out porno funk; it’s pretty awesome. I’m liking that. I’m liking Them with Van Morrison, and early Rolling Stones, and Yardbirds. And I always go back to Stooges, MC5.
What’s going on with the Malaysia flight? What does it mean for contemporary thought?
Well, it means that we’re reminded once again that we’re at the mercy of the universe. We like to think because we’ve got iPhones and all that shit, that we’re in control but obviously we’re not. I worry that it feeds into Bermuda Triangle garbage thinking, but a year or two from now they’ll find something just like the Air France flight that crashed off Brazil a couple years ago. It’s a tragedy, and it’s too bad that we immediately think, (gasp), “Oh, is it terrorism?” But tragedies happen, and random shit fuckin’ happens, you know? And that’s life. I know that very well (laughter).
Any closing remarks; something that has been running through your head recently?
Something that went through my mind last week – I was thinking about the fact that all this work in the show is from the previous year: what does that mean? And I thought, well, I think about history a lot. I thought, looking towards the past, is ultimately, a wish for hope in the future. And a search, or yearning for Romance in the present.
Interview conducted by Tara Slaughter
Interview conducted by Tara Slaughter