The Painter Who Fell in Love with Umbria
by Eleonora Cesaretti
The English painter Graham Dean creates «beautiful models, athletes, crazy bondage enthusiasts, identical twins, people with skin imperfections» using their bodies as «vehicles of expression». Through his stunning and innovative watercolours, he narrates emotions, ideas and memories, playing with colour contrasts and multiple layers. Looking at his reds, we can easily imagine the brightness of India, but we can barely imagine that he could be inspired also by Umbria.
It was 1992 when Graham Dean, born in Birkenhead, Merseyside, came to Italy to spend six months at the British School in Rome. He won a prestigious art award – the Senior Abbey Award in Painting – and he had the possibility to live for a while in the residential institution of the British School and to visit Rome and the cities nearby. From that moment on, Italy got under his skin.
During his many visits out of Rome, Graham went to the well-known town of Assisi and then, on his way back, he stopped in a village near lake Trasimeno.
«I didn’t know anything about Umbria and I was taken aback by the lake and its surroundings, wondering why that place was such a secret. Why didn’t more people know about this place?» states Graham. «Back in Rome, I vowed that one day I would return to buy a house and, if possible, a studio».
It was just the beginning: Graham Dean, who has made a lot of solo exhibitions all over the world, got struck by Umbria’s and now, he owns a studio-house between Migliano and San Vito, about 15 minutes out of Marsciano. He visits the house, surrounded by fields and the river Fersinone, about five or six times a year.
«I work on projects in the studio or on ideas. I found an enormous time to think and reflect. I have found, over the fifteen years I own the house in Migliano, that is the only one environment where I can completely relax in. There is an atmosphere that is difficult to describe unless you experience it, but everyone who visits says the same thing. I’m trying not to view through rose tinted glasses, as I know it can be economically harder for people to make a good living, especially for the young».
As a painter of the human body, Graham Dean has found that he’s slowing turning his attention towards the idea of landscape and the sense of other that he and his friends experience at the house. He feels like Umbria is a new territory for him to explore.
What would it be his next step? He would like to put on a large showing of his work in Umbria and he’s still waiting to be asked! Even though a number of younger painters wanted to show him, the authorities didn’t, so it slowly came to a halt. But who knows? We bet that sooner o later you will see Graham Dean’s large paintings in one of the Umbrian museums.
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