Graham Eadie. Argonautica
ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear Place, Dickson
Wed- Sun, 12-5pm; u
The story of Jason and the Argonauts is one of the great epic sagas of Ancient Greek mythology. Briefly, the story as told by the 3rd century BCE poet Apollonius Rhodius, relates in poetic form Jason's search for the fleece of the Golden Ram in the land of Colchis on the Black Sea and the many (mis)adventures, including his tragic relationship with the vengeful Medea, that accompanied his epic task. The text is dense, layered and erudite, qualities also engendered in the complexly interwoven, episodic narrative that has come down to us in a range of versions over the centuries since it was first written. The title of Graham Eadie's exhibition – Argonautica – is the title of the original work and encompasses in 47 works, the artist's creative reactions to one of the enduring myths of the Western world.
While the ancient narrative may be the premise for the exhibition, and indeed Eadie provides a synopsis of the myth for those not familiar with it, the artist is not interested in pictorially re-presenting the story. Rather his interests lie in producing personal responses to the epic's themes and to the means of transmitting those themes - the language of poetry in the language of painting.
The analyses promulgated by the Argonautica are not necessarily presented by Eadie as sequential responses to the narrative. The individual images are meant to be autonomous, independent entities. But each is titled with a direct reference to people, places and events from the story. This may be confusing to some viewers and the artist could have avoided confusion by not nominating individual titles and thus forcing viewers to deal directly with what was in front of them. The title becomes an obstacle to relating to the paintings.
Eadie's myth/narrative is subsumed into the painterly surface of each image. In the majority of works, the surface is a visual complex of layered interactions, a network of traceries that move over the picture plane, creating a veil. There is a lot of unnecessary visual activity in this exhibition, balanced in part by the larger works such as Circe's Island and Approaching Colchis, in which the notion of place, and the narrative, is legible. In both these and other works, the landscape topography is dramatically presented as a backdrop for the dramatis personae of the narrative.
For Eadie though, the narrative remains simultaneously fugitive and real, allusive and ultimately illusory. He is not talking about mythical places and heroes. He is talking about the artist, about the physical and intellectual activity of painting and how we should accept the data as presented on the canvas and place ourselves into a dialogue with those phenomena.
Eadie knows the myth of Jason and his Argonauts and its universal themes, such as pride, vanity, lust and love, and seeks to embody these in his art and express them through the abstract language and process of painting. By referencing his source so literally through concrete titles he proposes the presence of narrative and yet asks viewers to overlook this connection.
I like the notion of tension between the abstract and the real (even when the real is myth) but it can be a precarious balance. Much of the work in Argonautica At AeaAt IolcosAt CorinthMedea and Absyrtus, and Beach at Colchis are exemplary works. Much though remains elusive.