September 13 - October 06, 2023
Brian de Graft (1988) uses a simple and recognizable visual language that he has cultivated over the past few years to create playful, colorful artworks that celebrate beauty and life on the one hand and pose existential questions on the other. While preparing his exhibition, B.D. Graft doubted himself and experienced a state that is known as impostor syndrome. Are his style and technique too simple for the current times in which intricately painted figurative works are more popular than ever? Aren't his motives intellectual enough? Could he create something worthy of a solo exhibition at a gallery in Berlin? Self-doubt and stress, increased by the recent birth of his second child, consumed the artist, which ended up by him reinventing his craft in ways that did not feel natural. Close to despair, a line from a song on the radio caught his attention and brought an epiphany: "Why'd you have to go and make things so complicated?" Instantly, de Graft remembered why he started making art in the first place as a student: to slow down and calm his nerves after a long, hectic day. To reduce anxiety, not induce it. To have fun creating without overthinking things. Life is complicated enough, and de Graft’s art does not have to be.
The fact that the artworks are simple and decorative at first glance does not mean that they are devoid of meaning. The paintings are, above all, celebrations of life, but behind their accessible appearance lie existential questions and contemplations on the human condition. Take de Graft’s bees, for example, which can be interpreted as trivially or seriously as the viewer prefers. They can represent community, beauty, and child-like wonder, yet no other living organism is better suited for showing the fragility of nature than the bee, especially when depicted flying towards an unknown future. Now as a father of two children, these issues have added significance to the artist. Familiarity and repetition also play key roles in B.D. Graft’s work. Returning to the same motives gives him a sense of control and creates a safe haven of sorts. The artist feels comfortable within the visual universe he has created, and creating new variations of the same motive can thereby become a meditative exercise. At first sight, two of his “Blue on White Interior” paintings may look the same, until you take the time to notice the details. This allows the viewer to feel instantly familiar with a work whilst allowing them to make new discoveries, like watching a rerun of their favorite TV show.
For this exhibition, the artist has done what he does best: create bold compositions with striking colors, often with thickly layered oil stick strokes, visually recalling CoBrA and Fauvism while retaining his distinct contemporary style. Full of contradictions, de Graft’s art is both calm and chaotic, joyous and contemplative, controlled yet spontaneous, exudes a child-like naivety but is undeniably sophisticated. Many of the works in this exhibition will feel familiar to those acquainted with de Graft’s work, yet there are many surprises, and examples of the artist having yet again expanded his visual universe, adding new variations and characters to his signature creations. Expect odes to nature and cozy, imagined interior scenes which act as safe havens; like recurring dreams, they’re always similar but never quite the same. And then of course there is Homer, de Graft’s dear dog and eternal muse who the artist wishes to both honor and immortalize in his work.