David Thomas Opening Speech for Anne Marie Graham, Gallery 101, 2006

Anne Graham’s art delights in the rich fruitfulness of nature, usually peopled with those of related interests. Gardens feature prominently, evoking the earthly paradise of the Garden of Eden, vineyards of plenty, or tropical splendours. The busy engagement of her people recall those of Bruegel the Elder, especially his great paintings devoted to the months and seasons, the finest of which are in Vienna, Anne’s birthplace. Perhaps there is also a touch of Hieronymous Bosch and his Garden of Earthly Delights translated into the twenty-first century. All is conceived in the most appealing colours, humoured with occasional touches of whimsy. Above all, her art is civilised, in concept and exploration of the relationship of humans to nature - the landscape, the city, botanic gardens, and the humble vege patch. Even the Bungle Bungles look tamed under her hand.

The busy-ness of people in a city square, a picnic by the Yarra, or food and flower markets extend to reveal the presence of the human in the landscape – tilled field, terraced hillsides, a daffodil farm. There are exceptions, like Rocks at Noosa, an extraordinary emptiness packed with activity, almost minimalist in its concentration on the simplest of forms and night monochromatic palette. But here and elsewhere, the subtleties of her sense of colour are assured and enticing, married to a striking clarity and eye for the unusual, especially the exotic – of plants and birds tropical, or wild poppies among ubiquitous olive trees.

She has a directness in her art that is compelling, a seeming simplicity of statement about things complex. The naïve flirts with the sophisticated, the surreal with the real in paintings of a world of heightened reality, abundant with colour. Their surfaces are immaculate, and a peaceful calm pervades all. Her art has a touch of the fairy tale.

David Thomas
Arts writer and historian
Former Director: Art Gallery of South Australia, Newcastle City Art Gallery, and Bendigo Art Gallery