Art inspired by nature – Times of Malta

Graham Gurr is prolific in his output, having eclectic interests in his artistic practice

April 21, 2024, Times of Malta| Article by Esther Lafferty
Trickly Trickly

From April 26 to May 19, Arthall Gozo is presenting a new exhibition, Vivid, a solo show by Gozo-based artist Graham Gurr. In the airy white space in the heart of old Victoria, Gurr’s giant canvases are larger than life, taller than the artist himself and bursting with resplendent colour.

Prolific in his output, and with eclectic interests in his artistic practice, Gurr has long been known on the island for his architectural drawings and carefully composed traditional local scenes. These, the first time they have been exhibited, are therefore a surprise.

Graham GurrGraham Gurr

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Graham investigated the development of contemporary art in Malta for a Master of Research degree in 2008. However, he had originally trained as an interior designer at the London College of Furniture (which had a Bauhaus teaching philosophy) and Napier University Edinburgh, and fine art at Sir John Cass School of Art London, before working as an architectural draftsman and an illustrator.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that Graham’s art is underpinned by detailed drawings: in piles of sketchbooks, in page after page of precise compositions, he draws out the patterns and shapes he sees to incorporate them into his work, a practice which gives his art an element of design.

Using this same meticulous methodology, Graham is now pushing boundaries with his art, at last giving himself licence to embrace his ‘bolder’ side, opening up to thoughts and feelings he has perhaps repressed over the years. “I have always drawn and worked on a smaller scale but I was keen to paint bigger for maximum impact,” he explains.

<em>San Anton</em>San Anton

“My eye is always drawn to the forms in nature,” he continues. “I look for structure in the world and analyse it: when I see botanical scenes, I note the shape and patterns, and then play with colour. I see the world in very vibrant colours and, and there’s an element of colour in everything, however plain or dull. I might see a brown door as a startling orange, for example, and I use these bright colours that add sunshine and dynamism. That’s what I am trying to accentuate, and I hope that people looking at them feel interested, happy and excited.”

The paintings on show include several botanically inspired recollections of place from around the world which are uplifting, joyful and almost celebratory. An avenue of trees in San Anton Gardens in Malta, a ‘jungle’ in London’s Kew Gardens, and a rock pool in a park in Madrid, are each reassembled  like the patchwork of a fantasy land.

When I see botanical scenes, I note the shape and patterns, and then play with colour– Graham Gurr

On a fourth canvas, a stream trickles down rocks in Nepal:  the stones under the water are depicted in intense jewel colours. Although the shades and patterns could be richly woven textiles piled high together in an African market or the glittering interior of Aladdin’s treasure chest, this painting was based on a photo Graham took from base camp at Mount Everest.


From the thousands he has snapped on his travels, Graham alights on something he finds interesting, a shape or pattern, and then develops these in an abstracted way,  in which the viewer can and almost experience that spot for themselves, in a glorious technicolour. Another work in the show is an abstracted depiction of a Chinese wheat grinder, an unusual looking machine made of wood which Graham came across in China.

The exhibition also includes two large paintings filled with human shapes in a fun pop art style: together they offer light-hearted social commentary on the lack of communication, physical interaction and isolation brought in by social media.

The first, People Being People, shows dozens of friendly figures moving and behaving en masse in many ways – reclining, dancing, running, sitting, strolling and chatting. They’re animated, interacting, anonymous and timeless – they could be a community from anywhere around the world or perhaps they symbolise the global population at any point in history. Each character is painted in a golden yellow that isn’t a skin tone but almost might be, and against a bright party-pink and purple background; like the rest of Gurr’s abstracted botanical pieces, it’s packed with good vibes.

<em>People Being people</em>People Being people

Alongside, however, a second piece gives food for thought. i-Robot shows dozens of similarly stylised people all of whom are glued to their phones. Documenting the time we spend in which we don’t see the people we are surrounded by or the beauty of the world around us, except through a small screen, it’s a social commentary on 21st-century dependence on technology. “Children, especially, are addicted to their devices,” says Graham, “and I worry about what this means to us as a society.”

While this painting appears as bright and appealing as Graham’s other works, the characters are blue, which suggests a pervasive sadness, against a background that blazes in fiery red and orange, and I can’t help but wonder whether the people in this painting would notice if the world around them was in peril.