Rodney Graham
Getting it Together in the Country
28 Jan – 8 May 2023

Explore the exhibition

‘Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country’ celebrates the artist’s multifaceted creative vision through his elaborate, allegorical and witty image compositions. Unfolding across two galleries in Somerset, this landmark photographic lightbox series is dedicated to nature’s cycle through meticulously staged mise-en-scènes, reflecting a moment of pause and desire to step out of the daily grind.

In Graham’s photographic work, each image is a fictional self-portrait, with the artist in costume but always recognizable, portraying a vast array of characters. From the props and their placement within the frame, to the elaborate costumes and stage sets, each scene – either in his Vancouver studio or in public facilities around the city –is purposefully constructed and executed with an exceptional degree of technical expertize and humor.

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With both ‘Betula Pendula Fasigiata (Sous Chef on Smoke Break)’ (2011) and ‘Smoke Break 2 (Drywaller)’ (2012) Graham draws our attention to solitary breaks within everyday routines and places himself at the center of the compositions. It was these two works that instigated the wider Four Seasons series after fellow artist and friend David Batchelor noted that one clearly represented summer and the other was reminiscent of winter.

In 2012, Graham started to work on the work that was to represent autumn, ‘Paddler, Mouth of the Seymour’ (2012 – 13). He stated, ‘I had long wanted to do a work based on Thomas Eakins’ great ‘Max Schmitt in a Single Scull’, and here I transposed the scene into a contemporary setting with me playing a recreational kayaker pausing on a trip up the Seymour River in Vancouver. The work that represents spring, ‘Actor/Director, 1954’ (2013), finds itself in a double historical setting; a Hollywood soundstage in the 1950s during the production of a Technicolor film set in an 18th Century French chateau. The blossoms on the fake cherry trees clearly indicate springtime.

A true polymath, Graham seamlessly inhabited these different personae, often informed by historical, literary, musical and philosophical references from popular culture. His works examine the complexities of Western culture with wit and authenticity, revealing a myriad of insights into social and historical structures. ‘It may be a burden to reinvent oneself every time,’ said Graham, ‘but it makes things more interesting.’ The artist was developing ‘Rodney Graham. Getting it Together in the Country’ prior to his passing in 2022, with the title taking its name from his 2000 LP featuring improvised guitar recordings.

About the artist

Over the course of five decades, Canadian artist Rodney Graham (1949 – 2022) expanded his diverse practice to encompass photography, painting, sculpture, film, video and music. Graham studied art history in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia between 1968 – 1971. He then became connected with the Vancouver School in the 1980s, which served as a space for conceptual artists and photographers. They were defined by a style of photography in which moments from art history or fine art are replicated.

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Exhibition Guide

This resource provides supplementary information about several key works featured in the exhibition, including quotations from Graham, that give a unique insight into each image composition.

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