Graham Dean exhibition shows athletes get “Fitter,
A unique insight into the hearts and minds of Olympic and Paralympic athletes
is captured in a new exhibition at Bath & North East Somerset Council’s
Victoria Art Gallery.
Graham Dean’s “Fitter, Quicker, Longer”, running from 7 July to 2 September,
explores the mental discipline and physical form required of elite athletes
through a colourful display of huge watercolours on handmade Indian paper.
The internationally-renowned contemporary artist visited Olympic and
Paralympic training camps over the last year to make small studies of
athletes, which were then converted in the studio into large scale exhibition
As well as documenting sportspeople in action, the paintings also explore
their emotions in the moments before and after a competitive event has taken
Councillor Cherry Beath (Lib-Dem, Combe Down), Cabinet Member for
Sustainable Development, said: “We are delighted to exhibit Graham Dean’s
latest magnificent creations at the Victoria Art Gallery as part of Bath & North
East Somerset Council’s Olympic and Paralympic celebrations. His
fascinating portrayal of these passionate athletes at the peak of physical
fitness should appeal to sports fans and art lovers alike.”
The artworks cover a cross-section of Olympic and Paralympic sports – from
the grace and streamlined beauty of the diver to powerful displays of strength
from weightlifters and wrestlers.
Commenting on his latest public work, Graham Dean said: “When invited to
produce a show inspired by the Olympics, I was tempted to decline knowing
how rarely sport is tackled by contemporary artists. What got me on board
was an American critic’s claim to have never seen a good sport-themed
painting in a museum.
“The project spoke to my 35-year engagement with the body, born out in
paintings including skinheads, fashion models, gamblers and identical twins.
Athletes similarly push their bodies to an extreme and, in the case of
Olympians, are competitors who spend years preparing for this moment.
“One of the best days was with the Paralympics squad – in some ways
challenging, yet bringing a definite feeling of uplift. Wheelchairs were an issue
because it’s sometimes difficult to see beyond the equipment, but I wanted to
make them part of the athlete’s body. In one painting of a basketball player I
made the spokes of the wheels resemble a union jack. Likewise the ‘blade
runners’, whose mobility and grace surprised me.
“I found athletes’ bodies fascinating, including the skin – noticing its incredibly
healthy glow at a long jump event, for example. These athletes really were at
the physical peak of their lives.”
For this exhibition Dean has reinvented the traditional use of watercolour paint
through an innovative technique he has dubbed ‘reverse archaeology’.
Contrasting layers of paint are applied separately on thick, handmade paper,
made of ‘khadi’ a cloth which in this case is made from recycled t-shirts
imported from Kerala in Southern India. Each sheet is torn by hand and
overlapped to create a final composition of paper.
Graham Dean will lead a tour of his exhibition on Friday 20 July, from 1pm to
1.45pm. Admission is free but early arrival is advised. Collectors of Graham
Dean’s previous artworks include the musician Peter Gabriel and Anita
Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.
The Victoria Art Gallery, near Pulteney Bridge in Bath, is open Tuesday
to Saturday 10am to 5pm, Sundays 1.30pm to 5pm and closed on
Mondays. Admission is free. For more details call 01225 477233 or visit
the Gallery’s website www.victoriagal.org.uk.
Daniel Cattanach, Communications & Marketing
Communications & Media Officer
Bath & North East Somerset Council
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