Kevin Francis Gray @ Pace London

Pace London showcases in its flagship gallery at 6 Burlington gardens the solo exhibition of Irish born, London based artist, Kevin Francis Gray. The show comprises of 18 new sculptures, all occupying the gallery’s main floor.

Although Kevin Francis Gray’s oeuvre encompasses traditional materials such as bronze and marble, and clearly referencing classical sculpture, he succeeds in approaching his narrative through the contemporary art domain. The constellation of the four double life size bronze heads (Mickey, Vino, Louise, Lucy, 2013) standing on carrara marble bases are perforated with holes so to allow viewers see their polished interior. They all face inwards and some are gazing at the adjacent Twelve Chambers (2013), a work comprising of six male and six female life size bronze nudes, all standing on high polish bronze bases. At the end of the room the white statuario carrara marble Ballerina & Boy (2013) perform their own ethereal dance ritual.

This is undoubtedly a taciturn crowd; from the lonesome individual heads appearing as bodiless shells and detritus of life to the gallery’s epicentre, which is occupied by a chorus of twelve curious figures. These are representations of random people selected from the area of the artist’s studio. They are all positioned around one another, avoiding eye contact and facing down. They reflect melancholy, isolation and discomfort. Despite their given state of nudity, the atmosphere is vacant of any sexual tense and eroticism. The viewer is free to walk between them, sense their energy and engage with the feelings they evoke. For some, it may prove to be an unsettling experience. The dancing duo encompassing a ballerina lifting the body of the ballerino is an unorthodox and peculiar scene. With a veil covering both faces, the artist portrays the concurrent anonymity and the unnatural balance emerging through the struggle between the physical weight of the two bodies. Drapery details and muscular representations demonstrate a sophisticated sculpting skill.

Kevin Francis Gray’s figures are troubled entities. Hit and disturbed with misfortunes and predicaments of modern life, they are deprived of their defences and possessions and left alone. Wrinkly dark faces are what is left; different people, same exterior. The given chance to see the bright interior of the large heads is a poetic manifestation of the concealed human psyche and esotericism. The notion of anonymity powerfully pronounced in the dancing couple is this very representation of soul and spirit, existing in disguise. Kostas Prapoglou

Kevin Francis Gray talked to REVma -/+ about his exhibition and work:

REVma -/+: What made you decide to employ expensive materials such as bronze and marble as opposed to numerous inexpensive media that are widely available?
K.F.G.: Having spent many years working with materials such as resin and plaster I decided to take the work to another level both materially and conceptually, I have to revisit the use of classic materials such as bronze and marble. It is impossible to use marble without making reference to the past and this excites me greatly. There is a depth and tenderness that marble can impress upon sculpture with that no other material can and this I believe contributes to the power of the pieces.

REVma -/+: Your work is permeated with an esoteric energy and emotionalism impregnating an element of theatricality. Have you considered encompassing a performative component within your work?
K.F.G.: I think the correlation between performance and sculpture runs hand in hand with each other. This connection with the figure in my work is imperative, performative element is strongly within my conscious and present in my ideas.

REVma -/+: Your life size figures are placed on pedestals. Why have you decided to slightly raise them above the ground instead of placing them in direct contact with the floor surface?
K.F.G.: The idea behind placing the pieces on small pedestals was to give them a slightly larger proportion. The are actually life size but having to look slightly up at a sculpture can give the impression of it being larger. I also wanted the viewer, as they walked through the work, to feel like they where being slightly viewed upon by the sculptures rather than the other way around. This slightly claustrophobic feeling is imperative to the 12 Chambers (life-size) piece.

REVma -/+: The exhibition literature mentions that the process of creating Twelve Chambers involved random people seen in the area around your studio. What were the criteria for choosing these twelve individuals?
K.F.G.: 12 Chambers (Life-size) is the culmination of two years work on a body of work based around 12 people I have met over the years. This piece has seen a huge shift in my work away from the concept of the veil and what lies beneath it and to a braver and more sculpturally challenging idea of showing the person as they truly are. With this piece I wanted to have the option of the viewer to physically interact with the work. As the viewer walks through the fractures in the piece they move from being a passive observer to an active participating in the work. They are confronted head on with the reality of the piece and the discomfort of the isolation of every person in this seemingly connected group.