Graham Durward paints the same image over and over again: a scene of four males in old-fashioned swimming trunks, arranged in front of a low wall. Presumably based on a photograph, Durward’s repetitions speak not of the terrors of mechanical reproduction, à la Andy Warhol, but rather of the pleasures of a subjective touch. Each version differs in color and handling so much that together they evoke a variety of atmospheric moods, although each seems suffused with a brand of late-summer melancholy.
The Morning After Frost (2013), for example, is sketchily rendered in pale violet and green. These men seem to fade into memory as our eyes fix on a thick red smear defacing a sitting figure. Meanwhile, a Rorschach blot of a tree explodes like fireworks in the space between two standing subjects. Durward conjures a range of gay idylls—from David Hockney to vintage physique photography—with evident mastery, but queer desire takes a backseat to a romantic longing for the sort of gravitas that was once accorded to figurative painting.
Four other canvases feature portraits of individual figures, their heads and shoulders obscured by Expressionistic gestures. On the Edge (2014) depicts a fey young man in black shorts and a red necktie, his upper half erased by scraping that recalls Gerhard Richter. The result is strangely gorgeous, the alienation of an effaced identity assuaged by the delight we take in the demonstration of painterly skill. Equating representation with abstraction, Durward manifests his love for both his subjects and his medium.
—Joseph R. Wolin