Patrick Graham: Thirty Years — The Silence Becomes the Painting Composed of exquisitely agonized and delicately searching marks, the paintings and works on paper gathered for this exhibit of artist Patrick Graham deliver rare and raw emotional immediacy. Drawing on his native Ireland's tumultuous history of colonization, subjugation, Catholicism and internal civil strife, Graham composes trenchantly personal works that integrate scrawled text, wavering provisional imagery, found items and torn and reconstituted swaths of canvas. Seen from a distance, large-scale works in oil, such as Dead Swan/Captain's Hill, convey vast graphic landscapes; close inspection reveals a densely built and nearly abstract surface of violently thrown paint, masses of gloss media, found items (white feathers, freshwater pearls) and stitched-together fabric. Once considered a child prodigy for his virtuosic drawing skills, Graham rejected his own gifts as shallow and insincere and retreated into alcoholism and emotional instability. His return to paint (prompted by his discovery of German Expressionist Emil Nolde's work), as apparent in this 30-year survey, seems to have resulted in a style that is at once childlike and irrepressibly sophisticated. Tiny red outlines of fighter planes drop cartoonlike bombs on blackened expanses of tomb-covered hills; white doves, menacing pyramids and humble bowls appear in otherwise tortured accretions of scratchlike marks. And yet redemptive potential always seems near — in flecks of gold leaf or from underlayers of crimson emerging between rough seams. Through December 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, 3700 West Pine Mall (on the Saint Louis University campus); 314-977-7170 (http://mocra.slu.edu). Hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
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