Friday, August 10, 2007

Nathan Gray

The Fold: Nathan Gray
Joint Hassles, 2a Mitchell Street Northcote 3071
27th July to August 17, 2007.

Salt crystals on paper. Psychadelic dreams. Museological mutations. Nathan Gray's latest exhibition of sculptures and works on paper at Joint Hassles is like some light, fragile portal into a world sparkling with the residue of hallucinogens. Almost all the pieces feature hand-made fragments of paper, stained, marbled and saturated with organic swirls of colour. The collages are pinned behind glass like specimens in a muesum or flattened out origami, and matched with titles like "Pyschraficial Hood" and "The Hawknotist". Sprawling beneath the framed compositions are a series of free-standing sculptural growths. In making these works, Gray began by constructing simple, geometric frames from pieces of wood. The skeletal structures were bolted together using wingnuts and then used as supports for aggregations of paper, prints, cut-outs and string. The evolution of the forms seems slapdash, but they also have something of the lyrebird bower about them, as if Gray has nested out in the gallery and built little encampments out of shiny, precious lures.

The works in this show were originally generated as a response to Gray's recent experience at the Osaka Museum of Ethnology in Japan: "All the best parts of all the cultures of the world were mixed together, masks, costumes musical instruments, weapons and rituals. I tried to recreate some of the energy of this place by making my own masks and tools." Gray describes his collages and sculptures as abstract representations of relics, collected from a fictional neolithic village. "But instead of being ethnological", he explained, " I realized how much I was being influenced by album covers and band posters. I guess this is my culture." Music has played a large part in Gray's artistic productions for several years now: he has been collaborating as one-half of Snawklor for nearly a decade, and has also designed album-covers and t-shirts for various Melbourne band, including Architecture in Helskinki. The Grateful Dead album-covers from the 1970s are cited as a particular source of inspiration, and one that feeds Gray's broader interest in psychadelia and "the unseen". Traces of the Dead's fractal mandalas are particularly noticeable in Gray's Inspirational Vibrelation and Ud. Shaped like stylised guitars, these wall mounted sculptures sprout with quasi-symmetrical paper trails.

It then seems particularly appropriate that Gray has also been using his exhibition as a container for sound. The visual component is complemented by three musical performances in the gallery. Gray's own trio, The Fold Ensemble, is playing on Saturday 11th of August at 2pm, and features synths, loops, recorders, vocals, wah and (I am promised) extended guitar solos. Electronic duo Halfman/Halfmoffarah performed in July, and Snawklor held court amongst the collages last week. "As always", Gray writes, the exhibition "deals with my continued investigations into display and composition, the psychedelic and unseen, music, energy and colour." In his work at Joint Hassles, Gray has taken these ideas and constructed an unnatural history that remains poised as if on the brink of collapse.

More Nathan Gray work at

No comments: