James P Graham



In his work ‘The golden brain.... retracing Ariadne’, James P Graham combines myth and alchemy to explore the existence of phenomena outside our logical understanding or belief.

Hovering low above the floor of the gallery is a tangled mass of golden thread shaped loosely into a sphere. This suspended form feels like an energy conductor or brain, defying gravity through its apparent weightlessness. Graham muses over Ariadne’s famous thread that enabled Theseus’ escape from the labyrinth, and transforms it into an alchemical relic endemic of the labyrinth found in the mind. Gold is associated alchemically with the elixir of life, as well as being the metal for heart issues so perfectly appropriate to Ariadne’s unrequited love for Theseus. This allusion to 'energies existing outside of our comprehension' is one of the key themes running through Graham’s work.

Decline in mysticism and excessive secularisation in the post-Cartesian modern era has resulted in a dearth of awareness about these types of phenomena; but they can be accessed through illumination or intuition, that is, wisdom or comprehension that is given, not acquired through knowledge. The 13th Century Saint Thomas Aquinas famously defined this in his Summa Theologicae as ‘scientia sacra’ or sacred science. More recently, the Sufi philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr gives a complete explanation for the modern reader in his book ‘Knowledge and the Sacred’. A self proclaimed anti-conceptualist, Graham encourages viewers to look for ‘feeling’ rather than ‘meaning’ within his artworks, because, uniquely, an artwork can communicate the indefinable or inexpressible without always needing literal academic explanation. He constantly identifies notions of ‘sacred space’, starting from within the artwork and permeating the gallery space, where an atmosphere of ritual and contemplation can often be perceived. The Golden Brain.... Retracing Ariadne