There is an inherent diversity and openness in Graham Fagen’s artistic and conceptual approach. He works in sculpture, drawing, photography, filmmaking, writing and text, neon, installation and performance. Although his works draw on varied references and embrace all manner of materials and media, they all, in some way, touch on the role of society, history and cultural turning points in the lives of both individuals and communities. Whether made for a gallery or in the public realm, Fagen’s works are frequently developed over time, involving the collaboration and participation of others.
Fagen’s points of departure include slavery, the cultural influences of music, nature and the symbolic power of flowers, urban planning and regeneration. A significant strand in his work has been the use of theatrical strategies, of which Peek-A-Jobby (1998) is an early example. Fagen cites a Shakespearean device, in which the pivotal act of a play, such as a murder, takes place off-stage, thereby using the audience’s imagination as an essential tool beyond the visual action of the drama. As well as combining two elements – a script and a stage set – Peek-A-Jobby relies on our decisions and imagination as we encounter it. We can read the play, visualise the story on the set and potentially become a ‘player’ ourselves. Exploring the lines that art bridges between reality and artifice, Peek-A-Jobby articulated ideas Fagen has developed in subsequent projects, including The Making of Us (2012) in which he collaborated with a theatre director and cinematographer to deconstruct the processes of staging and filmmaking.
Elsewhere, Fagen has used his own experiences. In an unpublished 2011 essay, commissioned by the Mackintosh Museum at the Glasgow School of Art, he explored his conflicted attitude towards the architecture of the School and its architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose imagery adorns souvenirs in shops across Scotland. The essay paved the way for an exhibition project at the Mackintosh Museum in 2014, in which Fagen considers the implications of Mackintosh’s drawing and its relationship to his own practice. In 2015 Fagen will represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale.