Andrew Gray, Places and Spaces
Can’t Think Straight, Daylesford, Oct 8 to Nov 30, 2011
It’s never an easy feat exhibiting your art in a shop or restaurant or cafe. You’ve got to work in with an environment that has been setup for a purpose not primarily conducive to the contemplation of art. ‘Can’t Think Straight’ in the main street of Daylesford manages to orchestrate a good balance in this regard, between retail shop and art gallery. There’s wide open walls that reach up toward high ceilings and provide a workable presentation space without the art getting lost within the normally more frenetic displays of a standard retail merchandising setup.
Andrew Gray’s current exhibition, ‘Places and Spaces’, certainly embraces the opportunity afforded by this considered presentation space. Gray’s work commands its own presence and sits elegantly in the room. Crafted from fragments of fencing and lattice, the pieces hold a tension between 2-D painting/drawing and 3-D sculptural forms. This is most obvious with Girt by Sea, a dynamically shaped rhomboidal configuration (try saying that after a Saturday night drink). This piece oscillates between geometric diagram and architectural formation in a very pleasing way, slipping into and out of a movement away from the wall, as if vibrating on two planes.
There’s two particularly strong aspects in this body of work that mark it as noteworthy work. Firstly, there is the way that the materials (recycled pieces of timber from fences and lattices) have been allowed to carry within them, and on them, the marks of their history. Like with all upcycled, reused, reclaimed and recycled materials, the impact of time has left its mark, its history and imbues it with a particular character. These works, then, wear their life with pride. There is the dents and stains left behind by nails, there’s nails sometimes left in the wood, and there’s also the faded sections affected by years of sun exposure. The timbers speak of years bordering property, guarding sections of land, and demarcating private zones. And the way Gray then fragments them from those structures and reworks them into flattened compositions is akin to skinning the suburban topography of backyards and trophy mounting them as a thousand fractured spatial planes combined into one exposed surface.
This reveals the second major strength – the composition. Where this works best is when Gray is intuitive and more abstract, such as with Girt by Sea and Below the Surface. The occasional timber piece has been painted, or stained in one of a variety of ways and then re-incorporated into considered and balanced order with untreated timbers. This thought-out strategy of preparing particular pieces to bring into the collection of timbers gives the works a sense of the literary – as if some timbers are verbs, some are punctuation marks and others are conjunctions. It almost literally reads like a language and is also, extending that metaphor, not dissimilar in feeling to a bookcase of ordered book spines.
‘Place and Space’ runs until the end of November is absolutely worth a look when you’re next in Daylesford.