Dylan Graham was born in New Zealand/Aotearoa, home of the Maori people. Before the first settlers came to New Zealand, the Maori had no written records. Their mythology and culture was recorded in stories and visual art. The relationship of art in culture or folk art is a subject the artist is constantly studying.
Graham’s paper cutouts are monochromatic works made by delicately cutting paper down to minute details. The depictions generally concern dramatic global events seen from both a personal perspective as well as from a historic-cultural context. The imagery is rendered in a complex silhouette and then the whole is decoratively embellished taking inspiration from folk traditions from around the world. His work shifts in focus from large scale to minute detail. This range of detail is exemplified in Graham’s installations; where the artist uses an array of objects and amalgamates them into one distinct complex environment.
The works deal with the same formal concerns as architects and sculptors. Graham works meticulously and minimally trying to achieve an inherent natural balance in every work. This symphony is constructed through the struggle between what material to leave in and what to discard. Each work exhibits a light and decorative delicateness that stands in stark contrast to the heavy burden of its content.
Graham addresses issues of colonialism, forced migration, and servitude. Additionally, his artistic gaze has expanded to include broader historical events that examine class, politics, and war. He explores the impact of these events from a personal perspective and how in turn these events affect society on a global scale. As the artist states, “The repercussions of how colonialists, explorers, and settlers manipulated their logic and reasoning to justify inhumane practices are still being felt today.”
One of Graham's recent installation works ‘A Geocentric Model’ takes it’s inspiration from the life and mythology surrounding Coenraad van Beuningen (1622-1693). In this work Graham's desire was to create a installation that seemed as if it were a group of lost artifacts strewn about; caught in a moment of being packed or unpacked for transport and lost in time as it were. Van Beuningen wrote deeply on the consequences of the tropical winds and currents and was interested in the ideas of Descartes. Van Beuningen also incorporated in his writing his interest of mysticism, astrology, Millennialism dream-interpretation and supernatural wonders. In his last years, Van Beuningen wrote letters to the ecclesiastical authorities about the coming apocalypse. He painted Hebrew and Kabbalistic signs on his house at the Amstel, supposedly written in his own blood. These drawings and words are still visible today despite attempts by many different generations to remove them.
“Artifacts are what connects us, the here and the now, to the past. History repeats itself in different forms and we can look at history as something else than simply a linear record. As humans we have an emotional connection to the time and moments that pass by, this influence us and define us.” Dylan Graham, 2011.