Kathryn Graham

By CREAM ATHENS    |     February 2021 

Kathryn Graham © courtesy of the artist

What do we need to know about the work you are exhibiting at Not Applicable

The exhibition's objective to challenge our daily lives offers a chance to reflect on routine, normality, safety and space. My work naturally incorporates the surrounding environment to create a narrative that delineates personal and private experience of spaces through time, juxtaposing the past and present. The work questions emotional and physical memory and acts as a personification of thoughts constructed, fleeting, forced or repressed. Taking a step outside of daily life, deconstructing routine and the foundation on which it is built. This often conjures as a revisualisation of pressing social and political issues derived from a childhood in Northern Ireland, discussing concepts which relate beyond my own experience and to a wider social and cultural context. My aim in the work is to retell, but to also superimpose difficult symbology within a playful narrative. I use printmaking and sculpture to achieve this, providing a central viewing point from which the viewer can gain their own perspective. The work submitted for the show is made from versatile jesmonite, sun cyanotypes and etchings, most of which was created whilst in lockdown.

How do you interpret the term ‘Not Applicable’? 

I interpret ‘Not Applicable’ to be challenging current norms by breaking down behaviour, identity construction, traditions we cling to and where we feel safe. The aim of the exhibition is to create conversations on the things that are supposed to free us but end up enslaving us. In doing so, I am focusing on identity, our family, values, beliefs, practices, discourses, and knowledge; influenced both by cultural systems and individual actions. Reflecting on the shaping of a person’s sense of self, often through strategic self-presentation and transactional exchange, inviting us to question daily life. Where and why our behaviours are derived and approach our future selves with a better understanding and the chance for new thought patterns and approaches. Lockdown has offered us a lot of time to pause, reflect and step back from routine and reality. 

What’s integral to your work as an artist?

Experience, in terms of my memory. History, in terms of site-specific pieces. Family, tradition and stories. I research, watch and read before starting most new pieces to ensure I am informed and have an idea of what I want to achieve. Although this process can be limiting, I try to focus more on the process than outcome. I have to enjoy it or else I won’t finish it. My best results are often the opposite of what I initially wanted to achieve. I think a lot of it is about letting go and trusting the process. 

How do you choose the themes in your works? 

I find discussing Northern Ireland in my practise has really helped fuel a fire. In raising awareness of the past and continuing segregation issues, a history and current circumstance that many people are still unaware of. This was not my intention when I moved from Belfast to London to study my Masters, but it was a natural progression that was sparked through space from home which gave me clarity and highlighted how my upbringing was different to others. So, I don’t find myself choosing. It is often a case where it resonates with me long enough that I need to make work about it. It is a cathartic way of working, which can be quite unstable but a necessity.

Kathryn Graham © courtesy of the artist

What’s the best part about your practice?

I really enjoy working with other artists. Learning and engaging with a diverse range of individuals, in group exhibitions, collaborations, alongside travel (when possible) taking part in residencies and cultural exchange. I feel like I still have so much to learn and have somewhat been sheltered from everywhere outside of Northern Ireland having grown up in the rural countryside. I am continually gaining new insight into my own history in Ireland and correcting any old and misinformed thought patterns.

What does colour mean to your art? 

I work in series’ and tend to subconsciously focus works within each series to a specific and similar colour palette. I most comfortable working with muted tones, in a realm of nostalgia without getting lost in it. My colours derive from my surroundings, often Belfast, in urban landscapes and infrastructure. The colours of homes, murals, ruins and metals. Finding a balance between strength and fragility in colour. While working within a series allows me to contrast pieces, black and white, segregating colours and highlighting certain areas. 

Which artists have been your big influences? 

In the early days of making work during university Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Paula Rego, Mickalene ThomasandWillie Doherty really inspired my practise. Now, notably Geta Brătescu, Oscar Murillo, Helen Cammock, Catriona Leahy to name just a few. My big influences are also my peers, through-out university being a part of supportive network was and continues to be extremely housing and beneficial.

How is an artist coping through the pandemic?

It started in a difficult way, especially as a freelance artist. I work in an art gallery which was closed all of lockdown, not having that income was genuinely daunting. When all of your upcoming planned workshops and shows also get cancelled it is very discouraging to say the least. But I was very lucky and privileged to have received a A-N artists grant for support during the pandemic. This proved vital and I am extremely grateful to them for their support to artists at this time. 

What do you dislike about the art world? 

Lack of accessibility.  

Are there any strong realisations during the pandemic?

Not taking seeing your friends and family for granted, the importance of your health and home. The amount we need and rely on art, but how little it was valued as a career according to the newspapers. 

Kathryn Graham © courtesy of the artist

See more work kathryngraham.org

Follow on Instagram @kathryn_graham_

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