GFE: "I love the gothic".
We were sitting in my dining room, talking about his work, with a dozen or so of his bronze figures on the table in front of us. There is an incense burner in the form of the Gnostic god, Abraxas, alongside a small scrying bowl on a skull tripod. There is a delightful model of a reclining Pan, a trumpet made from an antelope's horn, and another made from (dare I say it?) a human thigh bone. As I handled these exquisitely wrought objects, the word 'magic' came to mind more easily than 'gothic'.
DL: "Your work seems to be immersed in magic?"
GFE: "It is, after all, art is magic."
Then, of course, I had to ask the inevitable question -
DL: "What do you mean by magic?"
GFE: "Magic is making the world conform to your own will."
I recognised the nature of the esoteric tradition, which had influenced his thinking.
GFE: "Whenever you take a piece of wax and turn it into a form, then you are practising magic. You are investing the wax with life, inventing for it an imaginative habitation. With that piece of wax you are making something in the world conform to your own will."
DL: "We are all magicians then?"
GFE: "If we practice art, yes."
This was the kind of magic which I considered to be very healthy indeed. I picked up his demon caller from the table.
DL: "What is this?"
GFE: "A trumpet."
DL: "Does it work?"
GFE: "Yes. Try it. I made it from an antelope's horn. The sounding end and the mouthpiece have been cast in bronze from wax models. The sounding bell is fashioned in the form of a demonic head."
It is the sort of head which Bosch might have designed had he been into the Celtic twilight of Druidism.
DL: "You didn't go to art school, did you?"
GFE: "No, I'm self-taught. I was thrown out of art classes at the age of 13 for making model aeroplanes instead of painting pretty pictures. Bad for the ego at the time, but now I see that this gave me the freedom to develop my own interest and evolve my personal style at leisure. Magic became my first love. Sculpture was my second. I'm also self-taught as a bronze founder. I learned everything from books."
Almost from the beginning of drifting into making 'magic-art', Graham found himself ambitious to become a sculptor in bronze.
GFE: "Having had no tuition in art, I felt that I would remain an insecure amateur until I could cast my work perfectly in bronze."
DL: "Now people collect your work?"
GFE: "Yes, but not on a large scale. Each piece is hand-made and takes a lot of time until I am satisfied that it is right. My work is sold to a small, yet discriminating number of collectors and working occultists."
DL: "Do you always sign your work?"
GFE: "I sign the limited edition pieces, and most of the one off pieces. However, some occultists do not want the artists signature (that which represents another personality) permanently imprinted upon their working piece."
DL: "Does it bother you that some of your best pieces are annonymous?"
GFE: "Not at all. If a piece is any good it should stand in its own right, besides, people who know my work can usually recognise it."
It struck me that if he put on a suit instead of his casual clothes or his overalls, he could project an image which would draw clients from across the world. Perhaps that was not what he wanted, however.
DL: "What sparked off your interest in magic-art?"
GFE: "Like most people, I became an artist almost by accident. In my younger days I met Bernie Ratcliffe, who ran 'Starchild', the magic supplies shop in Luton [England]. I asked him where I could buy some magical gear - you know, magic ritual swords, pentagrams and so on? Bernie laughed and said that if I found anyone who sold magical gear, then I should let him know. For me that was what we would nowadays call a 'window of opportunity'. I began making ritual objects and selling them through 'Starchild'."
DL: "Although you use the term 'gothic' to describe your style, it is clear that you are really interested in texture and light."
GFE: "Yes, especially in light. Texture is only light at work. I was always interested in light. As a child I had a friend who had one of those old projectors and a stack of films in tins. We watched time and time again such classics as 'Nosferatu' and 'Dracula'. It was the dramatic possibilities in light which intrigued me, even then. In a sense, I don't work with wax or bronze - I work with light. Bronze is a most sensitive metal - it records the surface of the wax of the original models."
As he speaks he is running his fingers over the serpentine legs of his bronze incense burner. This is a Gnostic god or demon, Abraxas, with the head of a cock and two serpentine legs. The head is removable and the incense is burned inside the body so a fine belch of smoke emerges from the open beak.
"It is this patina which offers the subtle light effects that reveal the delicacies of his form and their textures."
I asked Graham if he had any artistic credo.
GFE: "Yes, I feel that there is a need for a new magical iconography. I want my work to speak to everyone, but not through the old, outworn symbolism. It is one thing to make ritual horns, scrying bowls and incense burners for genuine magicians, who have some knowledge of the arcane tradition, but it is quite a different thing to make objects which ordinary people recognise as being 'magical', even when they have no knowledge of the symbolism involved. I want my pieces to have a magical air about them. Of course, it is impossible to work in the magical tradition without recognising the archetypal symbols, but it is important that these be contacted by the artist anew, in a creative way. This is what I try to do - I try to invest my work with a magical quality which goes above and beyond the actual magical symbolism."
At one point in our conversation I inadvertently referred to one of his works as a carving. Graham corrected me.
GFE: "I am a sculptor and a modeller. Carving is an unforgiving art. As a carver you cut away into a block and if you cut away too much, then the whole piece is lost. That is the end of that particular work. With modelling, you have more freedom. If you make a mistake, you can tack on more clay or wax, and continue, allow the work to develop a life of its own. A carver is trying to release a hidden form, a life already in the block. A modeller is trying to invest form with life. They are different visions, different forms of sculpture."
DL: "Your door knocker is not for the faint of heart", I observed. I found myself vaguely wondering who would have the courage to mount it on their front door. Perhaps it would go well on the ornate portal of a gothic castle. It clearly amused Graham to fashion a door knocker with a massive demon head, from which protrudes a pair of hands that hold a skull. As you knock on the door, you sound the death knell and the face of the demon grins at you.
GFE: "That's what I mean, ... Gothic."
Graham's work is available via his web site here
Top of Page xx Home xx More Articles
Copyright © 2001-2006 Winged Feet Limited
Visitors since Jan 01 2006