The origins of Kevin Gray’s (*1982) creative quality lie in the graffiti movement. At age 16, he started to rebel against social conventions like consumerism and ownership and instead asked questions about the role of the citizen. In the course of his studies in painting at the Fine Arts School in Weissensee, Berlin, his political claim became a persistent presence in his work. However, new aspects appeared as well – opening his art for even more ways of readings.
Monochrome color fields have given way to a complex image composition and a more differentiated play of light and dark. Gray usually works with oil and spray paint and a collaging technique creating a pictorial world that always leaves space for the undefined and mysterious.
In his most recent works older motifs reappear and are redeveloped, as well as completely new motifs. In the series “Jasmine Pictures” for example, the artist further expands the motif of the jasmine blossom. Embedded in an architectural surrounding the pictures show people with jasmine blossoms for a head. Sometimes a jasmine couple stand tentatively close to one another, at other times they appear as a crowd – almost accusing – to face the observer.
The jasmine blossom mirrors Gray’s choice for visualizing a symbol. In early 2011 it was used as a code word by the protesters in the Tunesian revolting against dictator Ben Alis. Later the code was adopted by other activists of the Arab Revolution. The frailty of the the jasmine people in Gray’s paintings contrasts the harsh reality of the political turnover of the Arab Spring.
Other, more established, motifs are a poppy field and a landscape consisting of various bridges (“Bridgeland”). As with the jasmine people, the first impression is deceiving. Initially, we see a harmless meadow of flowers in the sunlight and a harmonious landscape of islands connected through bridges. But when we look closer, and an underlying danger/threat is unfolding: poppy seeds can be used to obtain opium and on the horizon of bidgeland towering clouds are mounting up, conjuring up images of atomic clouds.
Kevin Gray’s pictures often confront frailty and the harshness of reality. What seems harmless at first often contains another dimension the viewer is challenged to decipher. An unambiguous and conclusive reading of the pictures is not available. Instead, the painter seeks to focus us on what is written between the lines while always preserving the mysterious and ambiguous nature of his art.
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