Graham Dean back at Birkenhead Williamson Art Gallery for A 60th Birthday Exhibition

By Ben Miller | 30 January 2012
An image of a rich oil painting of a man
© Graham Dean
Exhibition: Graham Dean – A 60th Birthday Exhibition, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead, until February 26 2012

Graham Dean's works are paintings of curious, inimitable beauty. Coining his technique "reverse archaeology", he applies separate, thick layers of paint on handmade paper from Southern India, tearing and overlapping in an organic final composition inspired by the human epidermis.

But he is just as interested as conveying what's inside our bodies – and when he does, he demonstrates a love for "oddball characters", seeing his position as that of the scientific observer and researcher.

These abstract, rich, forensic character studies may have had exotic influences – his use of vivid and powerful colours also has much to thank India for, partly derived from the saris Dean saw during a residency there – but they were first sparked in Birkenhead, where he was born and went to art school.

He's an honorary Brighton resident now, but his return to the widely-respected Williamson is his first in his hometown for 17 years. It also features recent paintings, including ones related to the forthcoming Olympic Games.

"There is nothing timid or tentative about Graham's work," observes Colin Simpson, the Museums Officer for Wirral Council.

"He uses the paint at its most fluid, producing luscious effects that allow the colours to puddle and flow on its hand-made Indian paper.

"The scale is unusual for the medium, and gives the bold shapes and vivid colours room to breathe amongst the textures."

  • Open 10am-5pm Tuesday-Sunday. Admission free.

More pictures:

An image of a white and blue painting of a man looking at people from an upstairs window
Dean attended the Laird School of Art in Birkenhead© Graham Dean
An image of a forensic painting of a person painted red lying down against a white and blue backdrop
Floating© Graham Dean
An image of a huge painting inside a gallery of a person in profile against a red canvas
Dean's previous exhibition at the Williamson was The Green Room, in 1995© Graham Dean
An image of huge abstract oil paintings of human bodies and faces in a gallery
The artist's large-scale watercolours have won international acclaim© Graham Dean
An image of a painting of two female figures standing side by side coloured blood red
© Graham Dean
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