Graham Little was born in Glasgow and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee and Goldsmith’s College in London.
In an interview with Stephen Hepworth for the British Council exhibition Tailsliding in 2001, Little described his work: "As a person, I always feel sort of ungainly or uncomfortable - more geek than stylish. I think for most people, using a piece of clothing in their wardrobe bought on a whim is the way they express that awkward feeling. They wear something eccentric. I think it's a reflection of most people's experience. The glamour always resides in the culture of fashion looking incredible in a magazine like ID. When you actually try to bring it into your life by wearing the clothing, it completely flops. You feel ungainly and it has no glamour at all. If something's beautiful, it tends to be quite plain and easy, so I suppose it’s intentional to have a degree of ugliness to make people open up their eyes - to wake them up. In Dundee, where I’m from, everybody wears the same all the time, shell-suits and awful stuff like that. Looking around London, it’s amazing what people are wearing, people coming from different countries and things. I was completely wired by seeing that, and so I was looking at my own clothes and thinking what would happen if they were introduced into my work. I definitely wanted the results to be awkward. So it's being honest about my experience of style.
I’m trying to make something that holds people’s attention for as long as possible. I don't know why you'd want that, but it’s definitely always been the desire for me. You can't see my sculptures all at once, so you've got to use your memory a bit. Comparing different parts. You go back to examine the part you looked at before and compare it to the thing you've just seen. You don’t get that with paintings. With a painting you just look at it all at the same time and you stand still so, actually - that's what I find very boring about a painting, that you stand so still. There are no real surprises. I hate the format. Everything's just square or rectangular. Similarly, if the actual structure of a sculpture becomes dominant because it’s too broken up by pattern, it then becomes a three dimensional equivalent to shading - you don't actually see the individual lines, just greys. I’m always trying to find a balance between patterns that cut into the three-dimensional form and break it up by using trompe-L’oeuil, or using a dark area against a white area, or using texture.
I remember having a lecture about minimalist objects and hearing about them in purely conceptual terms. I think people my age now look at them as beautiful objects and don’t really think about the ideas behind them so much. Magazines like Wallpaper* have played with that effect. Hard-edged abstract painting now seems sort of the geek side of art. It's kind of like the TV face of interior decoration. I remember starting to think about the relationship between design and fine art when I noticed a Kenneth Noland had identical colours to my mother's curtains, because they were made in the same period, or at least, that’s how it appears in magazines. So it’s okay that a sculpture has the stripes of a Christian Larcoix top and leggings. I remember the buzz of using twenty colours copied from a girl's jumper by Paul Smith, when before I had only thought of there being four basic colours for this particular sculpture. I'd never had the daring to use so many colours together before! I am much more comfortable celebrating the things that exist in the world than inventing them myself, using references from the world to make fun work. It's only maybe fun to a certain amount of people - to those who know the relationship of my work to the history of painting, or to fashion. Perhaps ‘accessible’ is an easier word. The nice thing about the sculptures is that young children like them, especially the bright colours. But all sorts of other people seem to like them too, which is just really nice. It’s cool. It’s my way of expressing the joy of life.
The first exhibition I had was in the Mall Gallery with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. It’s a completely different world from where I show now, and the two never really meet. I was secretly painting portraits for commissions during the time I was at college and absolutely loving it. I wanted to somehow be able to paint portraits in a very conventional way - not a clever way - as well as making very conceptual abstract work. The drawing now allows me to do both in a way that makes sense. It takes me back to what I was doing when I was eighteen years of age. I was drawing from my sister's first Elle magazine, which she was given, and I remember it in the house and I thought... you know - this is the most amazing thing ever - because in Dundee we only had Marks & Spencer. I also remember Next was extremely glamorous for clothes and thought it was the most expensive shop ever. Then to see something in Elle, where it was haute couture and ball-gowns, it was quite amazing.
I was working in my bedroom. I had all these images of things I was using for the sculptures, images of models in beautiful clothes stuck up on the wall. A lot of patterns were taken directly from the images to the sculpture. Then I started to think; what is my attraction to these images? Is it purely for the pattern or is it the fact that there's a beautiful model underneath? For a while I really considered making direct drawings from these advertising images to test out what it was that interested me. It seemed to be a really obvious thing to do, but I didn't want to make overtly fashionable work, or what might look like fashionable work. I think it was definitely important for me to see how direct a copy I could make. I've seen lots of drawing in contemporary galleries where there seems to be an unwritten rule that you never draw everything there. It’s interesting, the idea that drawing can be unfinished but a painting can't. I was also really scared, because I thought it was too similar to what people were doing in the sixties - using images from magazines of beautiful girls in a very sort of sexually explicit way. I didn't want it to be about that at all, it’s about their innocence."
Tailsliding, The British Council, London 2001