Exploring the word as image and the image as word, Graham Gillmore’s work balances between treacherous antipodes: pathos and wit, defiance and charm, and more basically, the anguish of experience and the rapture of its aesthetic expression. The twisting knife of a smartass remark, the threatening anonymity of a clinical evaluation, and the famous-last-words potential of pillow talk are articulated in his oeuvre with a chromaticism their ruthlessness seems to beg. Employing puns and punch lines both lewd and mawkish, and referencing cliches, board games, rebuses, barroom banter, and graffiti, his paintings are by subtle turns playful, earnest, and caustic. At times surrounded by bubbles that are interlinked via intestinal networks of lines, the letters and syllables he depicts take on lives of their own, as though reverberating in the mind suggestively, or suspiciously, connoting an overwhelming variety of possible meanings that appear to jostle for recognition. Expressive of a charged synthesis between distinct types of mark- letter and stroke- his works appear as the visual equivalents of utterances, whether poignant or pointed… or of how we receive and interpret these. Many paintings seem to emphasize tone ( as it denotes both voice and color ), implying at once the intensity of the experience a given message or phrase insinuates, and the private stamina required to endure its meaning on the one hand, or its ambiguity on the other. Thus while rage, disgust and disillusionment seem to propel it, his art is also tempered by a humor that is all the more expansive, even forgiving for this, and which acts as the grace note essential to beauty.
Visually, Gillmore’s paintings vacillate between a sleek neon intensity bordering on the lurid, and a bumbling home spun quality recalling a troubled adolescent’s secret notebook. At times broadcasting the artificial vibrancy of candy or cosmetics, his palette suggests how the moth might see the flame. The quasi-confessional quality of certain paintings, meanwhile, intimates any urban sophisticate’s biography, suggesting the universality of both our humiliations and our kneejerk laughter at those of others. With that intinctual excoriation turned on himself, it appears that the artist achieves a pervasive sympathy with the human quandary, one that in its lacerating irony is all the more sincere.
-Thomas Breidenbach 2012
Graham Gillmore is a Canadian painter best known for his vitriolic use of text as an art form within edgy and often controversial work. During the past 20 years he has positioned himself internationally developing a stellar reputation across Canada, the United States and in Europe.
Graham Gillmore was born February 20, 1963. Elements of his early home life helped shape his imagery providing a foundation for his future career. His accountant father provided the young artist with countless ledger sheets to draw on, saving the walls of their family home from his creative acts. Gillmore was also fascinated by anatomical illustrations found in his mother’s nursing texts. Always loving to draw, the influence of the ledger drawings and the shapes of “things internal” led to the formation of his unique personal imagery.
In 1981, Gillmore enrolled in the Emily Carr College of Art and Design and pursued a formal art education. He considers himself to be largely self-taught, but credits his friends from art school as having had the most profound affect on his work. Douglas Coupland, Angela Grossmann, Derek Root and Atilla Richard Lukacs all figured prominently in the development of his early career and remain good friends to this day.
Following graduation from art school in 1985, he and his art school colleagues found a studio on Cordova Street in Vancouver and the artistic group “Futura Bold” was born. Within a year, this creative force were included in the “Young Romantics” exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the careers of five of Canada’s most outstanding young artists were launched. Riding on the success of this initial exhibition, Gillmore moved to New York City in 1986. He currently divides his time between New York City and Winlaw, BC.
Graham Gillmore’s work can be found in numerous private, corporate and public collections in Canada, the United States and abroad, including The Ghent Museum, Belgium, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, The Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, and The Museum Of Modern Art in New York City.