Now in his 80s Graff is concentrating on colour, visual texture and media with less involvement with the idea of a subject. He is enjoying this unadulterated involvement. Even in his prior works he moved away from natural forms and appearances by adopting symbols and metaphoric forms to speak to the ‘spirit of locations.’ His intent was to give particular landscape elements monumental strength.
During Les Graff's QUARTET SHOW and the Banff Centre's BISQC Festival, we were very pleased to host The FourSet Quartet from the Phil & Eli Taylor Academy at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Wonderful music played wonderfully by a very talented youth quartet with backdrops of terrific art, including work by Les Graff.
“Moving away from the idea of a single fixed vision regarding the subject of landscape, I found myself confronted with complex relationships of form through space. Accepting the idea that time, movement and change are integral dimensions of the subject, adding in remembrances of past related experience; the subject becomes that much more layered and dimensional. The multifaceted layering of elements from the land allows me to build the landscape versus a literal rendition of water, trees, coulees and hills.
'Landscape' for me has been the familiar, therein serving as a 'backdrop' for my life. More than an interesting visual experience for art making, landscape has become an extension of self. I went a step further by involving our home with the land by incorporating still life with landscape fragments. Because of that, I have been preoccupied with developing a visual vocabulary that would enable me to speak about the subject, at the most personal level. What I do share with Canadian landscape artists is the idea of 'place'. We all have a need for a sense of place. I think of myself as an Alberta artist...”
Les takes as his reference the Alberta rural landscape. His preliminary sketches are the seeds for his creativity, with further development commenced in his studio. The sketch may be rendered as a colorful study in oil, or exploring form, Les may then extract the essentials with charcoal and graphite focusing on line. Large, bold, colorful, abstract oils on canvas are often the culmination of the previous studies.
Les Graff helped to shape the arts in Alberta as the Director of Alberta Culture, Visual Arts from 1966-1991, as a board member of the Edmonton Art Gallery from 1966-1998; and as an artist, a curator and educator.
Les earned an undergraduate degree from the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary (1955-1959) and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and Design in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Born, Camrose, Alberta
Banff School of Fine Art, 1955
Alberta College of Art, 1959
Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1960
Awards and Honours
2002 ACAD Alumni Award of Excellence
2001 Keynote Speaker ACAD Convocation
2001 ACAD Honorary Patron
1994 ACAD Board of Governors Award of Excellence
2019 Quartet Show, Willock & Sax Gallery, Banff
2003 U of A Extensions Center Gallery, Edmonton
2003 Sheraton Grande Hotel, Edmonton
1999 Profiles Gallery, St. Albert
1997 Available 'Commercial' Space, Banff
1995 Virginia Christopher Gallery, Calgary
1994 Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton
1994 Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary
1993 Prairie Art Gallery, Grande Prairie
1984 Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon
1982 Lefebvre Galleries Ltd., Edmonton
1981 Gold Design Fine Arts, Calgary
1980 Atelier Gallery Ltd., Vancouver
1978 Canadian Art Galleries Ltd., Calgary
1978 Gallery One, Saskatoon
1977 Chapman Galleries, Red Deer
1976 Lefebvre Galleries Ltd., Edmonton
1974 Latitude 53 Gallery, Edmonton
1974 Middleton's Gallery, Vernon
1971 Alberta College of Art Gallery, Calgary
1971 Lefebvre Galleries Ltd., Edmonton
1967 Calgary Allied Arts Centre, Calgary
1966 Jacox Gallery, Edmonton
1965 Focus Gallery, Edmonton
1963 Focus Gallery, Edmonton
1962 Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton
Moppett, George. Les Graff: Paintings and Drawings 1966-1984. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1984.