A.I.R. Reflections: Graham McDougal

Today’s reflections, we catch up with artist, Graham McDougal. Originally from Edinburgh, Graham has achieved international acclaim having exhibited in numerous galleries including Jose Bienvenu Gallery and Printed Matter Inc. in New York City, I-Space in Chicago, the Print Center of Philadelphia, Gallery St. Vitus in London, and Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery in Krakow.  His works are simultaneously abstract and representational. They are constituted by lines and shapes, symbols that seem encoded with the language of secrecy, and space, and although these abstractions bear little familiarity, they are in fact sourced in the written discourse of the everyday. Through the art of print manipulation, Graham resizes, distorts, and collages textual media, strips them of their significance, then reconstructs them into something entirely new. Take a moment to hear about it from the artist himself.

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Could you describe your artistic process?

My work is text-based, usually involving the printed page as a site or source. I begin working by choosing one or two pages from art and design journals. For the last few years I’ve been cropping and reproducing macro details of these pages. Usually my compositions are areas of a page that have been reproduced as errors by the photocopier, scanner or camera.

Have you made important progress or had any realizations about your work while in residence at Byrdcliffe?

I’ve been using the residency to experiment with some printing ideas and materials that usually aren’t available to me throughout the year due to space limitations. Also, the pace of producing and making the work here is much faster than how I normally work throughout the year. Usually I have a longer period of reflection and plenty of time to make decisions. Hopefully these changes can be figured into my regular working routine.

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You use typography as the basic element of many of your prints. Are language and semantics important to your work or are you looking at typography as a formal element – purely for its shape, line and structure?

Sure, both are important.  These also extend to the material language of the work and the ways it functions as an installation in a room or on a page. I’ve been interested in “seeing” the grid as a formal graphic structure, which is used to layout or design a text. I’m also interested in “reading” the fragments of textual language that remains visible beneath the layers of silkscreen ink.  All of these ideas can determine the sequence and installation of the work.

Much of your work is black and white or more subdued palette, however your most recent work uses more vibrant colors. Could you describe what led to this development?

Ideas about color developed initially when I was editing my installation shots of the black and white work. There’s an annoying optical problem in photography called chromatic aberration, which is basically a failure of the lens to focus all the colors towards a single point. Because of the focal length and the high contrast edges of the work and gallery walls, I found myself correcting these color fringes which would occur along the edge of the work. Anyhow, this led me to think about the possibility of layering CMYK colors to achieve a darker pallet. Over the past year I have been making this work by miss-registering each silkscreen layer. It’s not intended to mimic the distortion of chromatic aberration but it’s informed by this photographic problem and the process of registering multiple colors.

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To see more of Graham’s work, be sure to visit his website! And don’t forget to come by to Open Studios tomorrow to see his art in person!

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