Artist Les Graff (RCA) Remembered Prairie

By Angela Bugera and Margaret Witschl

At 85, Les Graff (RCA) is a prolific and energetic artist. His detailed and highly active painting style is as much a self-portrait of the inner man as it is observations of the external world. His mind and body are in constant motion.

Graff’s abstract expressionist work touches one deeply. It is evocative and soothing, soft and jarring. It is a symphony and a cacophony of color, shadow, and gesture. It is visually tactile, looking like velvet in some places and unyielding in other places.

Born, the son of the local butcher in Camrose, Alberta in 1936, Graff started painting at a very young age. With encouragement and support from the town, he studied and graduated from the College of Art and Design in Calgary, Alberta and went on to earn a graduate degree in 1960 from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield, Michigan.

Graff has maintained a daily studio practice for over 60 years. He also served as the Director of Visual Arts, Alberta; influencing policy and spearheading the establishment of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

Solidifying his place in Canadian art history, Les Graff was inducted into the Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA) in 2016 for his artistic merit and his contributions to the arts.

“The subject for my work continues to be the prairie environment, which by now has become a spiritual touchstone. There is now a need to bypass the concrete and to instead explore the intangibles. Colour continues to be the all-important dimension of my voice.”  — Les Graff ☐

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