James P Graham’s new project Desacration will be exhibited for the first time at the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome from 30 January until 28 February. The exhibition is made up of a series of paper sculptures, mapping landscapes in the Middle East which have suffered serious environmental damage from recent conflict. Sites have mainly been chosen on account of their archaeological and cultural significance but sometimes because of the sheer scale of devastation, rendering landscapes useless and sterile.
The exhibition aims to engage the viewer with the physical reality of environmental destruction, a threat to the ancient history and knowledge of our civilsation. Paradoxically, the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, established in 1565 by St. Filippo Neri, houses an incredible collection of manuscripts such as the Bible of Alcuin from the 9th century, and a number of these will be exhibited alongside the artworks to highlight this paradox. It is therefore highly appropriate that Desacration should be first exhibited in this historical treasure chest of knowledge.
Using satellite images as his starting point, Graham uses several different techniques in this work. Contoured paper layers cut precisely with a scalpel not unlike kirigami, the Japanese art of paper cutting, combined with a watercolour palette which often suggests the colours of heavy body bruising. He also includes a tapestry of ultra fine black and white lines which resemble oil rivers or dried riverbeds. Finally, he uses moulded plastic which is sculpted into abstract shapes suggesting human detritus. In one work Archaeological Remains of the Anthropocene, Graham ponders that our archeological footprint could be characterised by the discovery and excavation of our non-biodegradeable plastic.
His sites are carefully chosen, notably Aleppo, Mosul, Baghdad, Sanaa, all names synonymous with terrible conflict and obliteration. The largest and arguably most accomplished work in the series Under the Skin depicts the camp at Al-Hawl, in northern Syria, which holds over 70,000 prisoners mainly women and children from the former ISIS capital Raqqa. Graham’s highly detailed work recounts one of the world’s most forbidding landscapes, inhabited by some of it’s most wretched humans. Meandering black or white lines in the landscape are reminiscent of veins and arteries in the human body, getting under the skin, and reinvoking the sheer horror of this place.
The title of the exhibition Desacration is a play on the word ‘desecration’ defined as ‘the destructive treatment of that which is held to be sacred or holy by a group or individual’. Graham does not take a political stance in this work, but is acutely mindful of the active and influential role that artists can and should fulfill to help resolve the apocalyptic crises the world currently faces.
About the artist
James P Graham (born 1961) has been an artist since 2001. He is auto-didact, previously practicing as commercial photographer and filmmaker. His first notable work Iddu is a 360 degree film made on the active volcano Stromboli. This has been shown all over the world and most recently in the show ‘Pompei e Santorini, Eternità in un giorno’ at the Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome. Desacration will be his first solo show since the retrospective Calling for the Infinite Sphere in 2015.
Mainly using landscape and nature, his work has explored the now disused term ‘scientia sacra’, where chosen locations and objects carry a metaphysical and ontological significance. Graham likes to use different energy sources, physical or metaphysical, real or imagined which challenge the viewer to step beyond sensual perception.
He lives and works between London and Italy.
For more information, interviews and images, please contact:
Anna Villa: firstname.lastname@example.org
T: +39 06.6880 2671 W: http://www.vallicelliana.it
T: +39 348 861 6798 W: https://jamespgraham.com