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James P Graham


James P Graham

31st January - 28th February 2020

Salone Borromini, Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Roma 3


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“We took action to stop a war, we did not take action to start a war!” DonaldTrump4th January2020

C o v e ra n do p p o s i t e ,d e t a i l from ‘Under the skin’ 5


‘Desacration’ - An essay by James Putnam James P Graham’ s new body of work comprises a series of contour maps of Middle Eastern war torn cities and refugee campsthatconfrontissuesofforcedmigrationanditsenvironmentalimpact.Theyofferastarkinsightintothephysical c o n s e q u e n c e so ft h eS y r i a na n do t h e rc o n f l i c t sw h e r eb o m b sw e r e dropped indiscriminately on residential buildings, innocent civilianswerekilledorforcedtofleetoovercrowdedcamps. Althoughrefugeecampstendtohavelimitedvisibilityinnews m e d i at h e yc a nb ec l e a r l ys e e nf r o ms a t e l l i t ei m a g e sw h e r et h e y r e s e m b l ep o p u pc i t i e si nw h a tw e r er e c e n t l ye m p t ys p o t si nt h e s intricatepapersculpturesaretheresultof desert.Graham’ h i sc a r e f u ls t u d yo fd i g i t a le l e v a t i o nm o d e l so ft h e s es i t e so n G o o g l eE a r t h .H i sc o n t o u rm a p sc a p t u r et h el a yo ft h el a n d ,w i t h e v e r yd i p ,c u r v ea n dp e a ko ft h es u r f a c e .T h es t r e e tl a y o u t so f t h ec a m p sa n db o m b e dc i t i e sh a v eb e e nc a r e f u l l yr e n d e r e dg i v i n g t h ev i e w e ra no v e r v i e wo ft h ed e n s i t yo fh a b i t a t i o no rt h ee x t e n t of the urban destruction and the consequent effect on the environment. These follow the principles of stratigraphy in g e o l o g ya n da r c h a e o l o g i c a li n t e r p r e t a t i o nb u tr a t h e rt h a nb e i n g l i t e r a lc o p i e so ft h es a t e l l i t ei m a g e st h e yr e p r e s e n tt h ea r t i s t ’ s interpretations. H i sw o r k i n gm e t h o di n v o l v e sc u t t i n gu pt o1 6i n d i v i d u a ll a y e r s of watercolour paper by hand with a scalpel, then stacking t h e mt om a k ear e l i e fm a pw h e r et h ec o n t o u r sb e c o m ea na b s t r a c t e d landscape with topographic renderings. These meticulously e x e c u t e dm a p sr e c o r dt h ea b s t r a c t e db e a u t yo ft h el i n e st h e m s e l v e s w h i l eh el o o k sf o rp a t t e r n si nl a n d s c a p e sm a i n l yr e s u l t i n gf r o m human activities.Using all of the online information he has c o l l e c t e d ,h ea p p l i e sal i m i t e dr a n g eo fw a t e r c o l o u r s .T h em a p s tend to appear quite monochrome illustrating just how barren andscarredthelandscapeshavebecomewhenvirtuallydrained oftheirnaturalresources.Dotsyndicateshrubberyandwhite lines represent the roads and paths while he uses coloured plastictoshowdetailslikeoilwellsandhumanwastedumps. H ea d d st h e s ep l a s t i ce m b e l l i s h m e n t st ot h em a p su s i n ga3 dp e n

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Desacration was exhibited in the Salone Borromini of the Biblioteca Vallicelliana, Rome from 31st Jan to 28th Feb 2020m


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Thereisalongtraditionofartistsusingmapsormapping processes in their work with mindsets and expectations that go beyond the geographers ’ notions of cartography. Instead a r t i s t sl i k eA l i g h i e r oeB o e t t ih a v eu s e dt h em a pa sap r e v a i l i n g a n de f f e c t i v ev i s u a lm e t a p h o ri nt h e i rw o r k .G r a h a mi sm o t i v a t e d t oc r e a t eh i sw o r kf r o ms t u d y i n gt h es a t e l l i t em a p si no r d e rt o g a i nap e r s o n a li n s i g h ti n t ot h er e a l i t yo ft h es i t u a t i o nb e y o n d thelimitednewscoverage.Hisprojectembracesthenotionof artist as researcher using the mapping data, as he would a p a i n t i n go rs c u l p t u r a lm e d i u m .O nac o n c e p t u a ll e v e lt h i sr e l a t e s tothenotionthatmapsareessentiallycommunicationdevices synonymouswithpowerandknowledgeandidentifiedwithwhat t h ep h i l o s o p h e r sM i c h e lF o u c a u l ta n dJ a c kD e r r i d ac a l l ‘c r i t i c a l c a r t o g r a p h y’ . T h e s ec o n t e m p o r a r ya r tw o r k st h e r e f o r et a k eo na n e x t r as i g n i f i c a n c ew h e nj u x t a p o s e dw i t ht h eh i s t o r i cc o l l e c t i o no f ancientmanuscriptsattheBibliotecaVallicellianainRome. Artistshaveapenchantforrevealingordrawingattention towhatisnormallyhiddenorlessobviousandthereseemsan i n c r e a s i n gn e e df o rt h e mt ob ec u l t u r a lc o m m e n t a t o r sa n da c t i v i s t s c o n f r o n t i n gi s s u e so fe n v i r o n m e n t a l i s ma n dd i s p l a c e dp e o p l ei n t h ef a c eo fc u r r e n tg l o b a lu n r e s t .G r a h a m ’ r o j e c ti sp a r to f sp t h i st e n d e n c yw h i l ea no n g o i n gf e a t u r eo fh i sp r a c t i c ei st h e e x p l o r a t i o no fn a t u r e ’ i d d e n ,m e t a p h y s i c a le n e r g i e st o g e t h e r sh with aspects of the sacred. His dynamic multi-screen video installationIddu(2007),featuringtheactivevolcanoonthe i s l a n do fS t r o m b o l i ,h a sb e e ns t a g e da ti n t e r n a t i o n a lb i e n n a l e s andmuseums,andmostrecentlyattheScuderiedelQuirinale, Rome(November2019-January2020).

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Aleppo Red inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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“Without words, without writing and without books, there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity� Hermann Hesse

Archaeological remains of the Anthropocene I n k ,w a t e r c o l o u r ,p l a s t i c ,o nl a y e r e dp a p e r ,2 6x1 8c m

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Damascus Black,inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm


Damascus after,inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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Mosul ex Jonah I n k ,w a t e r c o l o u r ,p l a s t i c ,o nl a y e r e dp a p e r ,2 6x1 8c m

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Detail of Homer’s Iliad From the Ambrosiana Library Curator Angelo Mai (1782-1854) Published in Rome, 1835

Troy inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper26x18cm

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‘T h ed e a t ht o l li nt h eY e m e nw a rh a sn o wr e a c h e d1 0 0 , 0 0 0 . At least 712 mosques and 206 archaeological sites have b e e na f f e c t e ds i n c et h ew a rb r o k eo u ti n2 0 1 5 .D e l i b e r a t e t a r g e t i n gb yS a u d ia i r s t r i k e s ,H o u t h ir e b e l s ,I s l a m i cS t a t e and al-Qaida, as well as a booming smuggling trade have all contributedtothelossofthousandsofrelics.’ The Guardian 4th October 2019

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Sana’a,inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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Ozymandias Imetatravellerfromanantiqueland, Whosaid:“Twovastandtrunklesslegsofstone Standinthedesert.Nearthem,onthesand, Halfsunk,ashatteredvisagelies,whosefrown, Andwrinkledlip,andsneerofcoldcommand, Tellthatitssculptorwellthosepassionsread, Whichyetsurvive,stampedontheselifelessthings, Thehandthatmockedthem,andtheheartthatfed. Andonthepedestalthesewordsappear : : Lookonmyworks,yemighty,anddespair!’ Nothingbesideremains.Roundthedecay Ofthatcolossalwreck,boundlessandbare Theloneandlevelsandsstretchfaraway.” Percy Bysshe Shelley

Raqqa inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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Land – Owner or Custodian?

James P Graham

Urban Oilfield inkandwatercolouronlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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Darfur 24

ink,watercolourandplastic onlayeredpaper,26x18cm


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21°16'24.1"N 46°07'33.0"E

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Deserted Oilfield,inkandwatercoluronLayeredpaper,26x18cm

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‫ایت‬ ‫وهر‬ ‫ځر‬ 16.12.2014

Black Day ink,andarchivaltapeonlayeredpaper,26x18cm

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Sinjar m o u n t a i ni sc o n s i d e r e ds a c r e dt oa na n c i e n tZ o r o a s t r i a n s e c t ,t h eY a z i d i s ,i n d i g e n o u st oI r a q ,S y r i aa n dT u r k e y ,w h o b e l i e v et h a tt h es u m m i to ft h em o u n t a i nw a st h ef i n a lr e s t i n g place of Noah’s Ark. In August 2014, an ISIS offensive forced 30,000 - 50,000 Yazidis,to flee their homelands in NorthernIraqandseekrefugeonMountSinjarwithoutfood, waterorshelter.Over5000Yazidimen,women,andchildren were killed, either by beheading or being buried alive in thefoothills.AfterthisatrocityISISsoldierskidnapped around6700womenandgirls,firstrapingandthenselling t h e ma ss e xs l a v e si nt h ec o n t r o l l e dc i t i e so ft h ec a l i p h a t e MosulandRaqqa.WitnessesdescribeYazidigirlsallegedly r a p e db yI S I Sf i g h t e r sc o m m i t t i n gs u i c i d eb yj u m p i n gt ot h e i r deathfromMountSinjar...

Sinjar 30

ink,andwatercolouron layeredpaper,26x18cm


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Under the Skin,ink,watercolurandmouldedplasticonlayeredpaper,106x66cm 33


With many thanks to all the staff at the Biblioteca Vallicelliana Opposite and back cover: detail from ‘Under the skin’ © All rights reserved www.jamespgraham.com

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Profile for James P Graham

Desacration by James P Graham  

Exhibition catalogue

Desacration by James P Graham  

Exhibition catalogue