Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Carole Gray

These pen and ink drawings by artist Carole Gray are some of the visual threads that have made my life a whole, over the years. Born in Winnipeg and for many years based in Melbourne, her drawings have kept me company for decades, either framed on my wall or a visual share whilst visiting, in passing. The earliest drawings that I remember, when we were teens in Manitoba, showed some of the same fluidities and interests of these, two samples from 1991.

Of all the chairs I have shared this month, this is my least favourite: so spare, and perhaps, evocative of things that i would rather forget. It reminds me too much of my whole life, the poverty of it, the simplicity of poverty, the lack of a wealth of options. 

Where the "avocado" and the "moon," above, and the "bat cat" and "community" (below) suggest all good things, the fertility and fullness of life's potentials, all that has been and may yet become fruitful, 
the suggestion of the hand-washed garment hung by nails-- not draped over the back of the chair-- and drifting into the blue of the tub strikes me as a form of crucifixion. 

Perhaps it is only my own associations, going back to a time of earthly punishments shared, and all of the difficulties in finding our way out of the small and uncomfortable spaces allotted. There is no water in the tub, nor a suggestion of it, and so the tension, for me, remains undischarged. 

The playful pregnancy of the "bat cat," the zen garden smoothness of "community," like the drawings evoke for me the shared optimism, the creative and biophilic push and engagement. 
Life loves living, and we are a part of that.

Carole Gray, bat cat

Carole Gray, community

In conversation with the artist, I learned a few things of interest. The chair piece was created in response to  a request for art to go in a show, Passion for Fashion, "and fine clothes remind me of the tedium of hand washing."  The chair was in fact an intervention (not part of the piece). "Handwashing" was envisioned as presented on a white plinth, in an elevated position, and the curator modified the entry, a doubly-humbled (literally lowered) situation. (She suggested further interventions, but the artist said "no.")
I actually prefer the idea of the presentation on a plinth; that would have had the tension needed to make the statement vivid: the realities lived and the artistic representation. The angle of the photograph obscured another element-- the freestanding nature of the work-- rising into the sky from it's blue base (not a crucifixion).

The drawings were included in Gray's exhibition, Drawing it Out.
Passion for Fashion was a group show held in conjunction with the Melbourne Fringe Festival (Australia).

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