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Dean Whitbread 2013

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Written on September 5, 2004, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Know what I mean ?

Actually I just chose that image at random, so whatever it is, it’s just as much a surprise to me as it is to you.

Who are you anyway ? Why am I talking to myself in this misguided way as if posterity cares ?

Graham Gussin creates art in an almost bewildering variety of media: film, sound, installation, events, photography, text, painting and more. Made alongside the most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery in 2002, this profile showcases many of the artist’s important works, including Beyond the Infinite (1994) and Spill (2000).

This from the Illuminations website – a company I once did some work for – who are selling a video about a man I knew from the age of 19, and lived with for 3 years. I have a large amount of Graham’s work – most of it from his foundation year at Camberwell and degree course at Middlesex, which is where we met. He has a tendency of cutting off from people having once been friends – like quite a few artists and writers I can think of in fact – something I recently discussed with the author David Miller.

When I went back to help out at the college I had been to 20 years previously, I found a surprising amount of antipathy towards Graham.. nothing specific, but general vague charges of unoriginality and misappropriated ideas. I put some of the scorn down to jealousy – after all he has done pretty well, and stands out, in a career sense at least, head and shoulders above his peers in this area. He’s had the conviction (dedication ? obsession ?) to stick to his guns and be nothing but an Artist with a big A. Some of the negativity could be down to his habit of dropping people. But, some accusations of plagiarism I knew were more likely to be true, coming as they did from honest types with no particular axe to grind.

Does it matter ?

Funnily enough, when we were working closely, I was into video and sound, and Graham still painted and drew. Here’s one still on my wall:

We left college and for a while both worked at the Tate (now Tate Britain) in Pimlico. Graham found Julia, his partner and mother of his child there; I split up with my teenage sweetheart and embarked on a disastrous and deeply wounding affair with the marvellous Hollie. Graham having briefly lived in the flat I still inhabit had moved to Stoke Newington, after his Father’s death. He became rather distant from this point. I was moving rapidly into the music scene where I would learn everything that was to become useful and rewarding. We grew apart with no particular effort. I was somewhat at a loss for a while as to why he became so awkward around me – I still considered him a friend – until years later my ex told me she… “never saw him after he made a pass at me that I was so shocked by that I ignored!”

I have been thinking of holding an exhibition celebrating Graham’s early work, since I have so much of it, and since I am in touch with several people who own rather good examples. Maybe I should call it – “Graham Gussin – Retro-Retrospective”. As an adjunct I will commission a competition with prizes attached. The aim will be to come up with a piece of work which will define the Essence of Gussin, in a way which examines the charges against him. This is such a mad idea I may just do it.

The last time I saw Graham we were in Tottenham Court Road. I came out of a music shop, and bumped into him. As always he was charming. “We’ve put on weight!” he said. I looked at his once slight figure and thought, well for a man in his mid-40s, you ain’t doing too badly, but he was a rounder individual in a very Tao of Pooh way. I examined myself, and thought, hang on – I am still only 12 stone – he’s including me in his definition of plump. I opted out by exposing my naked stomach in the street. How embarassing. No wonder he doesn’t want me at his private views.

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One Comment

  1. nitnoy
    Posted 28 September, 2004 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    Thankyou for your insight. I was at school with Graham (and have an even earlier work of his!) and was just googling around for comments as another friend, Mike, (Henry Moore, Leeds and the Ikon) and I, had discussed some of Graham’s work.

    I stayed in touch with Graham while he was at Camberwell; we sent each other letters and he used to paste mine straight into the mixed media stuff he was doing. The paper pulp pieces he has done more recently echo this. The horrible Rotring line drawing self portrait I have from school echoes other more recent work, also.

    He has been consistent, then.

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