Representing Scotland at the Venice Biennale this year is leading contemporary artist Graham Fagen. Fagen, cited as one of the greatest leading artists in Scotland today, is senior lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee. Located in Glasgow, Fagen’s large collection of multi-media work aims to cross continents within the contemporary art world. He combines media such as photography, video and sculptural works with live music, performance, and text.
A notable element in Fagen’s mixed media pieces is plantlife. Use of flowers in Fagen’s work is a recurring artistic theme, bringing across an attempt to understand the powerful forces that shape our lives, and furthermore life around us. The exploration of these themes also includes a recurring use of popular song, as Fagen seeks to examine the social and emotional meanings found in his artwork, which appeal on both a personal and national scale.
Curated by Hospitalfield in Arbroath, Fagen’s presentation at the Biennale will consist of a new body of work, extended across four rooms at the Palazzo Fontana. Fagen will use the 16th century architecture of the Palazzo as the historic backdrop for his work, creating a path through the space so visitors can become performers within the piece. His long-term love of collaboration comes through again, as Fagen brings together renowned composer Sally Beamish, Scottish Ensemble, music producer Adrian Sherwood and reggae singer and musician Ghetto Priest. The result is an ambitious installation, focusing on the pervasion of vastly contrasting musical traditions- classical music, folk and reggae- to create a melancholic and ambiguous soundtrack for his work.
The participatory nature of Fagen’s work is kept a close-guarded secret, and previous works have included Peek-a-Jobby (1998), in which viewers enter a squalid student flat before being called on to portray roles in the play in addition to acting as spectators. Fagen is incredibly honoured to be representing Scotland at the Biennale, calling it “one of the most important events in the international calendar for the visual arts.”
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1. Graham Fagen. Courtesy of the artist and Venice Biennale.