To pick out shapes in clouds, or to find faces in manhole covers or lightswitches isn’t too unfamiliar to the creative eye. Richard Graham takes this notion of imaginative invention one step further, and calls it his art. His pieces are essentially assemblages of found items to create new forms and stories, often in the shape of animals. Pictured is Snail, made from an old bike wheel, an alarm clock and some scrap metal – why didn’t we think of that?
Hello Richard, your work looks pretty intruiging – can you tell us what it’s about?
Mainly my work is about seducing hot ladies, as they dig it big style. I’m joking! But then my work is about humour. It’s also that, and all the other feeling that ‘found objects’ can evoke. Nostalgia over the disregarded. The irony of it being newly found. Also if I am totally honest, I just like the creative process of making new things. I think that is the same for all artists. They make because they want to. I suppose I also like to think of my work as the by-product of my playing around. Like everyone, I get confused by those cliched questions ‘why are we here?’ and ‘what does it all mean?’. They’re churning around in my head everyday. Creating new ideas from objects adds clarity to my life – like I think it is a massive jigsaw puzzle and I’m pulling together the pieces. Connecting the dots.
How did you start making the work you do now – has it always come naturally to you?
I have always been artistic, I never intended to be an artist though. I was interested in art, but instead of going to art school I did a degree in history of art. When I graduated I helped curate and was part of exhibitions at 20 Hoxton square gallery and whilst I was doing that my nan died. I was looking through her old things, all this junk in the garage. I don’t like throwing things away – I’m a hoarder! – so I started playing with them in quite a prolific way. Maybe it was a way of dealing with that time in my life. But basically, through quite an organic process, I ended up making the work I’m doing now. So yes, it did come naturally to me.
The pieces have a real naive charm to them – are you still a kid at heart?
Definitely! People get annoyed and say “grow up”! Especially my younger brother. But its not a simple as that. Play isn’t a tangible thing and neither is the divide between being an adult and being a child. I really don’t see the point of separation. You could say “Oh childhood ends when we leave school or when we can legally vote or drink alcohol”, but you will always be your parent’s child. And likewise children can be incredibly responsible.
Historically too the definition of childhood has shifted many times – just check out the Museum of childhood in Bethnal Green, it is so interesting! So for me the division between ‘adult’ and ‘child’ is difficult to understand. I think it’s sad that some people seem to deliberately forget their ‘childhood self’ in order to define themselves as adults. I think it’s much more forfilling to see that “adult life” can be a huge playground too – especially in London! Picasso once said “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up”. I think he was reminding us that play can be artful, like when children realize areas of life by playing war or play
pretending with toy prams. Continuing play in adulthood maintains a balance in our lives as it contributes to the continual widening of understanding and meaning. We are all constantly learning!"
What are you assembling at the moment?
Erm..too many things at once! One big thing I am making is Olivia the Owl. Her body is made from an old white bath, ironing boards as her wings, pram wheels as her eyes, garden forks as her feet and a yellow stiletto heel as her beak. I think I am going to put her in a tree somewhere.