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In todays unruly art world it becomes ever more important to demonstrate style and substance in order to achieve public recognition and critical acceptance. This is particularly true in the matter of painting, an art form exerting a strenuous balancing act between tradition and deliverance. We are thus faced with a conundrum of four elements which need to be amalgamated in order that a work of art might acquire significance. The painter Graham Metson attempts to do just that and, I dare say, with a considerable degree of success.
Let us look at these elements in sequence, as they relate to Metson’s art. As regards style the painter has evidently found a definite form of expression. His paintings, either by their display of colour or by their sense of design, project a presence of undeniable personality. Sharp contrasts alternate with subtle gradations, both in shades and design. They convey a stylistically coherent visual impact of a clearly individual nature.
Substance, in our present art context, is indeed quite hard to attain. With all the upheaval surrounding the debate on the meaning of art, substance, while it is viewed with some distrust, curiously by reason of the prominent place it occupies in the area of aesthetic judgment, remains nonetheless a fundamental criterion in the appreciation of a given work of art. Without hesitation, however, Metson imbues his paintings with content, one of the prime constituents of substance. Whether they be figurative or approaching abstraction, his works provoke a need for thought to reach understanding. The nature and execution of his paintings incite the viewer to go beyond their surface, to look for substance.
Undisputedly the art of painting is a continuum. Nobody can pretend to start it from scratch. Tradition, therefore, is one of the major enabling tools at the artist’s disposal. It should not be considered as limiting or restrictive, as is so often done today, but rather be seen as an enabling element of creation. Technique―skills such as drawing, colour sense, composition―and intellectual knowledge, among many other factors, are at the painter’s disposal either to apply or to reject. Yet in both cases they exert their influence. Here again, Metson stands on solid ground. His works are integrated in the age-old tradition of painting by way of format, technique and even conception. From tradition onward, the artist guides his paintings toward deviation and innovation.
We now come to the plat-de-résistance of the menu: the item of deliverance. The question is how to be delivered from the burden of the three elements discussed already without denying them by letting them sink into a whirlpool of nothingness which would in turn engulf the artwork itself. The new, the original, the actual, the present, the immediate: all these terms tell us clearly that the artist must take a bold step into his living time. He will take hold of ideas and passions, of his individuality and his social context, of his sentimental and analytical experience and churn them into his creations. Thus they will acquire a personality of their own and become unmistakably the work of a single hand. Each of them will appear as something new, as yet unseen. Graham Metson is able to deliver himself from all these constraints, however essential, and step decisively into his paintings to give them a life of their own.
Graham Metson’s work is part of a body of contemporary art which strives to go beyond the strident sensationalism of so many present day offerings. In some way one could say that it is rooted in certainty, the certainty of belonging to a world of thought and reflection, of feeling and sensing, of meaning and understanding. Metson’s paintings not only demand to be seen but also to be read. They affect the eye and speak to the brain. In fact, they are imbued with a quality of endurance which cannot but insure their lasting permanence as artworks born out of the Zeitgeist, the very state of mind of our time. Leo Rosshandler