Peter Benjamin Graham (4 June 1925 – 15 April 1987), was an Australian visual artist, printer, and art theorist.
In 1954, Graham began to explore native Australian wildlife (notably Kangaroos) and themes associated with Aboriginal culture, using the visual languages of European figurative Modernism and later geometric abstraction.
He began developing a new form of visual geometry related to Chaos Theory from 1960, eventually called Thematic Orchestration. This new visual language enabled the 2D deconstruction and synthesis of an observed subject, in a way fundamentally different from traditional abstraction. Thematic Orchestration allows the artist to 'grow' an image, producing almost infinite conscious invention.
In 1964, Graham began developing what he called a high level visual notation system for pure visual imagery, which he first named "Notation Painting" and later "New Epoch Art".
Graham became a pioneer of the Australian artist run initiative movement, running The Queensberry Street Gallery in association with Victorian Printmakers' Group from 1973 until 1978.
In 2006, Graham's 1945 painting Peter Lalor Addressing the Miners Before Eureka featured in a major Australian travelling exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade. This painting is also featured in Riot or Revolution, a dramatised history documentary on the Eureka Stockade directed by Don Parham and produced by Parham Media Productions in association with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2005.
Peter Lalor Addressing the Miners Before Eureka by Peter Graham, Oil On Canvas 1945
Head Of A Woman by Peter Graham 1949, Ink and pastel on paper 52 × 38.5 cm
Graham at The Abby Arts Centre, England 1947 with his painting Old Age And Youth
The Blind Fiddler by Peter Graham 1947, Oil On Canvas 81 × 51 cm
Peter Graham was born 4 June 1925 and raised in the Melbourne suburb of Hartwell. He was awarded scholarship to Melbourne Technical College Art School for one year in 1939. He studied Hand Lithography with Ross McClintock Studios (Colour separation from artists' originals, drawn as lithographic plates – 24 sheet positives, etc.) between 1940 and 1941. Graham transferred his indenture to PhotoGravures Pty Ltd. in 1941. There, he was trained by master craftsmen in facsimile reproduction and pre-press Rotogravure techniques during war years. He received his Certificate of Completion of apprenticeship in 1946.
In 1946, he was awarded the Ferntree Gully Art Prize for best watercolour, 'Back Streets of Hawthorn', a year later he was awarded The Herald prize for best drawing, 'The Smokers'. He left for England with Grahame King in August 1947.
Graham test riding his BSA 500 motorcycle in Melbourne, just before heading off to Alice Springs.
In 1954, Graham rode a BSA 500 motorcycle non-stop from Sydney to Melbourne. After rebuilding the bike, he headed across to Adelaide then rode solo up along the route of what is now the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs over five days. There he worked as a builder's labourer for 18 months while painting on the side, until the end of 1955. During this time he worked and painted alongside Aboriginal artists, Adolf Inkamala and the Pareroultja Brothers. He helped build the John Flynn Memorial Church and government housing at Hermannsburg Mission. At Hermannsburg, Graham met anthropologist Ted Strehlow, who transformed his way of seeing the Australian landscape and Aboriginal culture.
Graham spent six months in Fiji painting and drawing in 1956.
Fijian String Band by Peter Graham 1956 W/C and ink on paper 43 x 39 cm
Dream Of The Big Fish by Peter Graham 1956 W/C, ink and pencil on paper 42 x 39 cm
Gallery A (Melbourne)
1956–1960: Graham returned to Melbourne, rejoined PhotoGravures Pty Ltd. Shared a studio with Leonard French and befriended the New Zealand born artist George Johnson, who introduced Graham to the work of Kandinsky, Klee and Mondrian. Painted a series of abstract works based on his Central Australian experience. These were exhibited at Gallery A (Melbourne) in 1960, founded in the same year by Max Hutchinson and Clement Meadmore.
Kangaroo Paddock by Peter Benjamin Graham 1957, Hand Ground Oil on Canvas, 1420mm × 2455mm.jpg
The Waters Of Lethe by Peter Benjamin Graham 1964 Oil on canvas, 1680mm × 2890mm
1961–1964 – Graham completed new series of paintings referred to as Linear Extensions.
1964–1973 – Graham conducted experimental studies based on new concept of Notation Painting.
In 1967 the Reverend Alfred M Dickie married Graham and Cynthia Louis who went on to raise a family of three children: Philip, Michaela and Euan Graham.
Peter Graham Gallery – Queensberry Street Gallery (Melbourne)
From 1971 to 1978, Graham created a series of experimental works using photographic and lithographic techniques and materials.
In 1971, Graham befriended artist Paul Cavell and collaborated with him on his Notation Paintings between 1974 and 1976.
In 1973, he opened the Peter Graham Gallery at 225 Queensberry Street, Carlton (6 April) supported by a photo-lithographic workshop in the same premises. Closed this gallery in 1974 and reopened it as the Queensberry Street Gallery in 1977.
Graham's Solo Exhibitions at the Queensberry Street Gallery:
1973 Notation Drawings and Paintings from 1961 to 1973
Australian Watercolours from 1954, 1955 and 1973
1974 Western Port Foreshores
1977 Western Port Places – Notation Painting
1978 Survey from 1947 to 1978
During 1977, Graham collaborated with Noela Hjorth and the Victorian Printmakers' Group which at the time was lobbying for space in the Victorian Government's proposed Meatmarket Craft space. He was appointed to the Interim Committee in the formation stages of the Meatmarket Craft Centre and helped to draw up a plan for the establishment of an access workshop for Printmakers at the Meatmarket. As part of his involvement, he had set up a plate-graining service for artists and student Printmakers and became the manager of this facility.
Victorian Printmakers' Workshop group show opened at The Queensberry Street Gallery by Professor Bernard Smith 26 July 1977.
Graham closed his gallery in 1978 and transferred his workshop to a home studio in Canterbury (Melbourne) at the end of the year.
1981–1983 – Graham worked on series of drawings called Paradise Destroyed, and contributing to several anti-nuclear exhibitions.
1983 – Graham returned to his Central Australian subject matter with large series of watercolours and oils entitled The Painted Land. Completed at this time a memoir of his stay in Alice Springs, called 'Journal of a Small Journey'. (Taped version in Archives at National Library of Australia, collected by Barbara Blackman
1984–1985 – Graham painted Tragic Landscape series.
Graham returned to development of Notation Painting in 1986 in collaboration with his son, Philip Mitchell Graham. Arranged with Jan Martin for a retrospective exhibition to be held at her gallery in Lyttleton Street, Castlemaine, Victoria.
Lahey, John, Quiet artists life revealed on 2500 canvasses creates a stir, The Age, 7 July 1987, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, ISSN0312-6307
Stone, Deborah, Beyond the Grave – A Painting Performed, The Australian, 22 April 1988, R. Murdoch, Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Australia, ISSN1038-8761
Prendergast, Maria Ed. The 1989 Australian Arts Diary, (1988) ISSN0729-3127
Litchman, Loy Dr. New Epoch Painting: The ideas of Peter Graham, InterACTA: Journal of the Art Teachers Association of Victoria, Published by ACTA, Parkville, Victoria, No 4, 1988, ISSN0159-9135, Cited In APAIS. This database is available on the, Informit Online Internet Service or on CD-ROM, or on Australian Public Affairs – Full Text
Coster, Peter, Domestic treasures open up a masterly storehouse, The Australian, 2 October 1990
Graham, Philip Mitchell, New Epoch Art, InterACTA: Journal of the Art Teachers Association of Victoria, Published by ACTA, Parkville, Victoria, No 4, 1990, ISSN0159-9135, Cited In APAIS. This database is available on the, Informit Online Internet Service or on CD-ROM, or on Australian Public Affairs – Full Text
Lancashire, Rebecca, The art of painting in numbers, The Age, 25 May 1991, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, ISSN0312-6307
Interview with Peter Graham by Paul Daviset al., 5 June 1977 Concentrates on his early years in England and gives some information on his notation research
Peter Graham reciting his memoir, Journal of a Small Journey. Recording by Philip Mitchell Graham, 10 April 1982. This memoir details his motorbike trip to Alice Springs in 1954 and his subsequent experiences in Central Australia over the following 18 months.