Early entries first
‘Graham Dean is making a bid to be the Alfred Hitchcock of painting. He makes life-size pictures of people in normal everyday situations, but looked at from an unusual point of view ; moments frozen out of normal time with sinister or menacing undercurrents.
One excellent painting shows a young man working at a photo- copier . For a split second the flash of light from the machine gives his face the impression of a death- mask .
Dean, who is 28 , has the reputation of being one of Britain’s leading young figurative artists. He has also been working on two short films based on his pictures which will run as videos during the exhibition .’
A London listing magazine 1980
‘Horses for Eighties courses
Edward Lucie-Smith, the outgoing Evening Standard art critic (he is being replaced by Richard Cork), in the Feb 21 issue of the paper chanced his arm as a tipster in the art world, and gave the names of Victor Newsome, Michael Leonard, Graham Dean, John Davies, Fred Watson and Sam Smith as artists whose work might both give pleasure and financial reward in the 80’s . Nearly two months earlier a Sunday heavyweight, trying to pin names on the lapels of the 80’s , had come up with, inter alia, the names of Barry Flanagan and Stephen Buckley as likely visual arts lads for the decade.’
Art Monthly , March 1980
‘At the moment the best known of these (realistic) artists is Graham Dean , who very recently had a one- man show at the Liverpool Academy, subsequently shown at Chiltern Street. Dean is in some ways the equivalent of the so-called Ugly Realism which established itself during the Seventies in Berlin. In other words, there is a side of his work which is obviously related to Neue Sachlichkeit. He satirises vanity and sympathises with the deprived. One of his paintings ‘Shopsoiled’, even managed to find its way into a showing of ‘social art’ at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Graham Dean also specialises in conjuring up an atmosphere of menace, nowhere better exemplified than in one of a series of three paintings called ‘Compartments’. Two skinheads occupy a compartment in a train; they have half-risen to their feet and are watching a figure outside who is running along the platform. They look as if they are about to spring at him. The figure is in fact a portrait of the artist himself. Dean included a related drawing depicting just one of the skinheads in his show. This was both surprising and informative, as the actual technique of draughtsmanship derived fron Seurat. When one went back to the painting, one saw it in a different and more classical light .’
Edward Lucie-Smith , Art and Artists 1980
‘There are several painters of real distinction. And some who really seem to be coming along nicely. Graham Dean has refined his means astonishingly in the last three or four years, so now his finely detailed figures against severely simplified backgrounds have a force and subtlety one would never have imagined to be within his grasp when he first began to exhibit .’
John Russell Taylor , The Times , August 1980
‘The quality of Dean’s craftsmanship is exceptional ; clear outlines silhouetted against the featureless background with the paintings , against different but also featureless hatchings, for the drawings, are his most memorable image. His taste for excessive heat in a Turkish bath, painful sunburn with skin peeling on ocean cruises, and blistered expression with large noses and mouths , the express , genuine vision, a little reminiscent of Francis Bacon. His recurring title ‘undercurrents’ invites further study, so that the superficial creepiness may tell a message of endless fascination .’
Graham Hughes, Art Review 1981
‘And Graham Dean contributes several powerfully-drawn and painted figure studies-more reminiscent, however, of the psychiatrist’s consulting room than the studio’
MOMA exhibition , Oxford Times, July 1981
‘When I first looked at Graham Dean’s paintings I felt intrigued but a little bewildered . Then I felt repulsed but inextricably attracted. The talented figurative artist uses frightening realism to link the abnormal with the utterly ordinary ‘
Bracknell Evening Post, July 1981
‘Dean’s recent paintings seem more easily locatable in terms of recent performance art than any traditional painting perspectives. Like most ’social’ realists Dean works from photographs . His reference material for his recent work has been a series of studio photographs of himself and others wrapped up in various materials, or exposed to various physical conditions, all beautifully executed and neatly presented. One gets the feeling that these altered states are very much performance documents, just as some of the paintings are reconstructions of strange, melancholic events. What characterizes his series of paintings , A Deck, aquatics, B Deck (hung as a sequence), is its ritualistic relationship between the figure and its space – in B Deck a naked woman , scabrous with peeling skin, crawls along the deck of a ship. Its grey, green, white palette, birds eye viewpoint and strong contrast between the vulnerable figure and the stark enclosing lines of the ship , have a frisson of the gas chamber. These paintings are not tableaux in any accustomed sense- Dean gives his figures no dramatic life- rather, it is if he were documenting the instinctual behaviour of some strange creatures.
His ‘Deck’ series is strong – gives us a glimpse of that ‘parallel reality- because although it presents something as prosaic as sunbathing there is no certainty that is what the figures are doing ‘
John Roberts , Artscribe no 30 1981
‘A triptych by Graham Dean reveals, with photorealist clarity, the grim truth behind the getaway talk; the solitary confinement of passengers on the sundeck at the mercy of the elements, either scorched or goose pimpled’
William Feaver , The Observer , January 1982
‘And two of the most interesting artists in the group , Malcolm Ponyter and Graham Dean , make their points by dealing almost exclusively in extreme situations. A number of Dean’s recent paintings have been inspired by medical illustrations of rare tropical skin diseases , and in them the skins of the victims become almost a canvas within a canvas , for a formal exploration of Pointillist effect- except that we , and Dean , never lose awareness of the pain within the abstract intricacy of colour . And even dean’s more local subjects – the occupants of a steam bath, the sunbathers hideously peeling , the masked posers- contain, just beneath the surface, the same mysterious anguish .’
Catalogue introduction ‘Superhumanism’, John Russell-Taylor, Feb. 1982
To be continued and updated…..