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Steven Grainger's work displayed recently at Milburn + Arte evokes an intuitive response from the viewer. These works explore the themes Grainger has been developing for some time. His is a gentle reflection, simply conveyed, which concentrates upon the creative power of interacting opposites, the mystery and wonder of growth and the relationship between thinking and doing. As a result his work exhibits both earthly and other-worldly qualities.
His paintings and drawings develop a rich imagery: certain themes and symbols used previously recur and are at once personal and universal.
In an important and seminal work exhibited at Michael Milburn Galleries in October 1987 this artist depicted the idea of growth. A series of 450 small paintings formed a grid through which a gradual change took place. Undifferentiated forms became more complicated and specialised, but finally returned to simple but more sophisticated images. One was reminded of the evolutionary growth described by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in The Phenomenon of Man.
Many of the current paintings continue to explore the growth theme, often symbolised by the pregnant figure. This image brings forth feelings of mystery, hope, joy and purpose. The artist shows a compassion for the human condition and a recognition of its place in the divine scheme of things. The human figure plays an important part in a number of these works and is treated with dignity and reverence.
The visual device which serves as the title of the exhibition is taken from a pair of frequently used images - the human head crowned with a cross and the human head sprouting a network of shoots or feelers, like antlers. Various aspects of human thought and endeavour are typified by these symbols. Another visual device which recurs is the use of multiple agate-like outlines surrounding figures and heads. There is a hint of influence from aboriginal art in the paintings where this is employed and also in the map-like landscapes or mindscapes which Grainger has exhibited for some years.
This artist takes several approaches to the wide-ranging and yet coherent ideas he expresses on paper. Soft, lyrical water colours are placed beside bold hard-edged works and stark line drawings, their subject reduced to the bare essentials. The serious and the humorous are placed side by side. Sometimes precisely executed work is hung adjacent to quite rough reductive drawings on pages torn from old exercise books. This may offend some, but the juxtaposition of opposites on the gallery wall reinforces the ideas which inform the totality of the exhibition. The effect upon seeing this exhibition is to recognise the essential worth and significance of all things, great or small, and their interconnection.
Steven Grainger presents his work very simply with an honesty and a naturalness which prompt an equally genuine and unaffected response. However this artist explores grand matters in his work and by exhibiting it he shares with others his glimpse of the eternal.