Graham Hall – Better Architectures
Graham Hall (b. 1975, Oshawa, ON), has been exhibiting actively since 1995. His work in drawing and painting has been shown at 1080Bus Gallery in Toronto (The Foreign State of Heads, 2001; Drawings, 2002; The Gathering Shadow, 2003), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa (Energy Implosion: the (905) Imagination, 2001), and Monastiraki in Montreal (Environs, 2012; 2013, 2014; Optimistic Panorama, 2015), as well as at various other venues, including non-traditional spaces and events. Since 2003 Graham has been a regular exhibitor at Montreal’s small press and zine fair, Expozine. From 2003 to 2012 he was the front-man and songwriter for garage punk band The Captains, performing in and around Montreal. Hall has been an active member of articule artist run centre since 2003. In addition to sitting on the articule Board of Directors from 2004 to 2009, and as President from 2006 to 2009, he has been particularly active as a member of numerous programming committees and in fundraising activities and the centre’s writers’ club, producing texts to accompany several exhibitions.
Since 2010 Hall has been a member of the Board of Directors of Archive Montreal, the organization behind Expozine and the Distroboto network of art vending machines. He is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design (AOCAD Drawing and Painting, 2000), and of OCAD’s off-campus Florence programme (Advanced Visual Studies in Florence Certificate, 2001). He lives and works in Montreal.
About the Exhibition
The pavilions in Montreal and Osaka of Expos ‘67 and ‘70 were visions of a future of possibility, yet none were built to last beyond the term of the event. Only a very few survive, and those that do not, live on only in photographs which seem to evoke a time and place that almost never was, that was aspired to for the blink of an eye. Similarly, the mushroom-like blossoming of International Style architecture in the post-war era represents a conflicted view. Embraced wholeheartedly by banks and other large economic concerns, this style of building initially intended as “machines for living” and as a democratizing force, instead has become emblematic of globalized greed and impersonal bureaucracy. We look back on the cultural products of the decades following the Second World War with admiration and positive nostalgia for a time when things seemed possible. We cast the era as golden and innocent, when we know full well the ravages of environmental degradation, economic disaster, cold war frost, political corruption and violent social upheaval that spread their pall across the globe at the time. The same conditions exist today, seemingly amplified, but perhaps only so seeming, because we have not the advantage of hindsight on our current position. Yet now so much optimism and possibility-embracing are often considered naive, and stark bitterness is the go-to mode.
It seems to be terribly uncool to seek new creative invention, and very cool to show how cognizant one is of the shit-storm of horrible things happening to the world. Yet, the artists of the past whom we admire for forging new ground for the future had to contend with totalitarianism, industrialized war, social inequality unthinkable today, the shackles of religion, even the total breakdown of social order. Through the haze of these difficulties, the visionaries of the past saw a Year Zero, and instead of bemoaning the hovering darkness, they sought to create anew the light of day. All may lie in ruin, but this provides space to build.
We are passively reactive to the ills around us. Imagining implies that we be actively active, that we move towards possibilities, no matter how hopelessly unrealizable they may appear. Because without the outlook of fantastic possibility we drown in gloom and critique-without-end. In this body of work, a debt of inspiration to early modernism is evident, but not slavishly copied; the geometries of Rodchenko, Schwitters, Klee, Delaunay, Russian Futurism. There is a hint of esoteric design, as though the pictures ought to be about more than just the sum of their parts. Theosophy could be at home here. Architecture is rendered lumpy and organic, as though more a still life than a landscape, the dynamism of space flattened, set on the table, and seen through distorting glasses.
I try to speak though colour and form about love, happiness and the other fragile things which we hold dear, but which so often end up tossed aside because they seem to us to be not very serious. I have an abiding interest in the varieties, uses and meanings of kitsch and how it is connected to history and what that can say about how we treat things in the contemporary world. I want to take nostalgia and make it un-empty, to wipe it clean of melancholy and fill it up with meaning for today. I see deeper meaning in a harkening back to the 1960s or 1970s, beyond a childish wish for a hippie dream which never was. Through the modern tradition of formal abstraction the past is brought into service of the present, lending a language of internationalism and universality to a time that is atomized and self-segregated. Thus there is a bridging of the 20th century, from the visions of pre-war, to the hallucinations of the revolutionary psychedelic era, tapping Romantic fantasies and fevered dreams of a world mind at peace, of the belief in possibility rather than the retreat into cynicism.
It is a call for a conspiracy of happiness, a belief in love, an acceptance of imperfection and the harnessing of ingenuity to lift humankind beyond petty discriminations. It is beyond politics, beyond religion. It is about the life and health of the mind. It is Utopian in nature, but not in conception. It is a very long poem dedicated to describing positivity and optimism.