GRAHAM FOSTER (b.1970 -) is a Bermudian painter and sculptor whose native land and its history have played a pivotal role in his work. Considered by many to be Bermuda’s leading contemporary artist, Foster has garnered international attention for his murals and paintings.
Of his many critically lauded projects, Foster at present is best known for his mural, The Hall of History, located in the Commissioner’s House at the National Museum of Bermuda in Dockyard. Officially unveiled by Her Majesty the Queen on Nov. 25, 2009, the two-story, one thousand square foot acrylic-on-wood (marine ply) mural took approximately 7000 hours (over three years) to complete, and depicts five centuries of Bermudian history, interweaving significant events such as the establishment of the island’s first human settlement (following the wreck of the ship the Sea Venture in 1609) with portrayals of the island’s flora, fauna, traditions, transport, religion and culture. One of the prominent transport features is the Bermuda Railway Train that no longer exists today. In order to create the mural, Foster intensively researched the island’s history, collecting volumes of information from a multitude of sources, including the Internet. Not long before work was initiated (about half of the work was executed on site, the other half in the artist’s studio), the venue was in a dilapidated state, but was admirably restored by the critical intervention of Dr. Ed Harris — the executive director of what was then called the Bermuda Maritime Museum — and his staff. Upon the mural’s unveiling, Foster gifted to the Queen one of his paintings that depict Bermudian history, The Wreck of the Sea Venture, with Dr. Harris hailing the mural as “one of the largest and most singular artifacts now in the collections of the National Museum of Bermuda”, adding that “Graham’s inclusive and vibrant vision will interest and excite both residents and visitors, school students and educational professionals, about the complex but outstanding heritage of the island.” The mural was also publicly praised by Bermudian Ashley Dunn, an assistant curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, who called it “definitely the best work of contemporary art in Bermuda.”
Foster, who has been a professional artist since 1995, received his education at Bermuda College and at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston. Thus far, his paintings have generally tended to trend in one of two directions: the first inspired by Bermuda’s fish, flora, fauna, and people, captured in a uniquely surreal style; the other looser and more expressionistic, influenced by dreams and the subconscious mind. Featuring bold colors and considerable detail, many of his Bermuda-themed paintings have been transformed into archival-quality giclee canvasses, each personally signed and titled by the artist. Recently, Foster has devoted time to the maturation and evolution of his unique Rainbow Wheel series of paintings, which he considers to be “a surreal take on the island’s colonial past, combined with the detritus of the old, abandoned British Naval Dockyard in Somerset.” Of late, his major mural projects have included: The History of Tortola and The Culture of Tortola (2014), currently in private collections in the British Virgin Islands; and The History of the Elbow Beach Hotel (2013), which continues to attract both visitors and locals to its twin-walled story of the historic hotel (opened in 1908) and its relationship to the island. Of the mural — which took eight months to complete and is located on the grounds of the hotel — The Bermudian magazine wrote: “Foster’s rich imagination and his skill as a painter transmute his information into an extraordinary flow of swirling vibrant images, allowing his audience total immersion into Bermuda’s history of hospitality as experienced at Elbow Beach … Foster’s mural will be an invaluable visual resource for history buffs, teachers and students who will be able to see a thousand historical details come to life in these two spaces.” Foster’s work as a sculptor (primarily in welded and forged steel) has also earned him recognition: In 2002, he became the first Bermudian artist to have a work purchased for the permanent collection of the Bermuda National Gallery, a welded steel triptych entitled 21st Century Fetish Family. Many of his sculptures are strongly influenced by the tribal artists of Africa and the Pacific Rim, and Foster himself has said that he tries “to imagine the votive pieces they might have created if they’d been able to utilize welding over carving.”
In addition to the aforementioned Works of Art, Foster’s diverse array of accomplishments over the course of his career thus far includes: the 2009 $10,000 Charmin Grand Prize for his painting The Mechanics of Extinction; inclusion in the 2009 book, Bermuda 1609-2009: 400 Years-400 Portraits, which highlighed 400 Bermudians who have had a significant impact on the island’s development over the past four centuries; the Maritime TreeGrates, chosen in 2010 for permanent display outside The Washington Mall in Bermuda; the Yoko Ono-endorsed John Lennon tribute sculpture, Double Fantasy (2011), situated outside Bermuda’s Masterworks Museum of Art; the 2012 purchase of his sculpture Seas of Europa by the Masterworks Museum of Art for inclusion in their permanent collection; the presentation in 2018 of one of his works to the New York Stock Exchange by Bermuda’s Premier Michael Dunkley, on behalf of the Bank of Butterfield; selection of his Brian Burland Tribute Mural— in honor of Bermuda’s pre-eminent writer — for permanent display in the Bermuda College Library; recipient (twice) of The Bermudian magazine’s Best of Bermuda Award for Visual Artist; inclusion of the above-referenced painting, The Wreck of the Sea Venture, in the 2017 Buckingham Palace exhibition “Royal Gifts,” with a reproduction of the painting included in the Buckingham Palace-endorsed book of the same title which accompanied the exhibition, and selection of the painting for permanent representation in the British Royal Collection. (The book in part states: “Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth II has been presented with a variety of gifts of cultural and historical value and significance. Royal Gifts presents a selection of these objects, displaying a spectacular array of craftsmanship from over 100 countries across the globe.”) Moreover, Foster’s work has been chosen for solo showcases at the Masterworks Foundation and the Ace Gallery, and his work has been displayed at several Bermuda National Gallery biennials. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Bermuda National Gallery, the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, the National Museum of Bermuda, the British Royal Collection, the New York Stock Exchange, Bausch and Lomb New York, The Bermuda Anglican Cathedral, The Bank of Bermuda, The Bank of Butterfield, Ace Insurance, LOM, Allianz Re, and the Bermuda Commercial Bank.
Foster is also an important contributor to Bermuda’s cultural community, sharing his knowledge in talks at various school art programs, and encouraging the next generation of Bermuda-based artists.
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