Surreal, uncanny, seductive: step into Graham Little’s world

Scottish artist Graham Little presents his first US retrospective at The FLAG Art Foundation in New York

Graham Little artworks of woman sitting with mirror, and man touching toes in pants
(Image credit: Left: Courtesy Lora Reynolds, and Alison Jacques, London, © Graham Little, photography by Michael Brzezinski. Right: Private Collection, London © Graham Little, photography by Michael Brzezinski)

In Graham Little’s uncanny world – currently on show at The FLAG Art Foundation in New York – reality is almost imperceptibly skewed and figures, presiding over tea tables or posing for portraits, are almost familiar. The Scottish artist riffs on the rich worlds that populated late 20th-century advertising and 1960s fashion photography for his impeccably designed rooms, in which gorgeously clothed people self-consciously reside.

‘It has always felt important for me to listen to the imagined desires and feelings of the models and stylists of the source material,’ says Little on the intertwining of cultural references throughout his work. ‘I prefer to help them build those worlds and expressions instead of my own. Sublimation of my fears and my concerns for how everyone manages and copes in life.’

Graham Little at The FLAG Art Foundation, New York

artwork of woman in orange top, head to the side

Graham Little, Untitled, 2000

(Image credit: Private Collection. Courtesy Alison Jacques, London, © Graham Little)

Intimately sized, Little’s gouache and coloured-pencil works on paper command the viewer to come closer as if they’re peering through the keyhole, casting us in the role of intruder. The figures in the works think so too – caught holding stiff poses, they avoid our gaze. 

The exhibition at FLAG Art Foundation unites 16 works created between 2000 and 2023, in the LIttle’s first retrospective in the US. ‘The earlier works were direct and therapeutic in that they allowed me to momentarily disconnect from masculinity,’ says Little. ‘After a while I have given permission for some of my own subjectivity and reason to shape the image. The eras of fashion photography that inspired me were of a time of better connection with our own thoughts and community; before the invention of the handheld hoover for the soul, a time before we sold off our thinking space. I don't think we need to buy as many shiny surfaces, and it is still possible to use a text-and-talk phone or go for a slower walk with no purpose; help fund a public library.’

artwork of dead fox

Graham Little, Untitled (Fox), 2017

(Image credit: Courtesy Charles Asprey. © Graham Little. Photography by Michael Brzezinski)

This slower philosophy is encapsulated in the melancholic works casting historic fashion photography in muted tunes, presenting a complex rethinking of both femininity and domesticity. ‘I am still trying to manage a misunderstanding of femininity,’ says Little. ‘I am uncertain.’

coloured drawings of people at home

Graham Little, Untitled (Parlour), 2014

(Image credit: . Courtesy Jonathan Sobel & Marcia Dunn. Courtesy Alison Jacques, London © Graham Little. Photography by Michael Brzezinski)

Graham Little is at the FLAG Art Foundation, New York, until 4 May 2024

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.