Last month, Jackson’s Art Supplies sponsored the One to Watch Award at this year’s FBA Futures Exhibition. The exhibition showcased the work of the most exciting and promising artist-graduates from 2015, as selected by representatives of the Federation of British Artists. The Award winner was decided by public vote, and we are thrilled that the winner was Christopher Gray’s ‘Gold on Blue’ (Pictured above, 80 x 140 cm, oil on wood). The oil painting on wooden panel depicts a young woman in contemplation on a blue chequered background, with an oriental fan shaped halo, adorned with cherry blossom and birds. We were intrigued to find out more about the artist behind this spiritual and beautiful work.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about your prize winning work, ‘Gold on Blue’?
Christopher: My piece was inspired initially by Sydney Long’s work ‘Sadder than a Single Star that Sets at Twilight in a Land of Reeds’, his long central figure combined with big abstract shapes and brilliant use of gentle colour contrasts drew me to it. I have always been captivated by big bold but subtly executed compositions, the theme of a central idea but with as much emphasis on the whole image and not any individual feature. Rothko and Klimt are two other favourite artists of mine for these reasons; you can see Klimt’s influence on my work, especially with the use of abstract shapes.
The motif came from my love of Whistler’s work and how he played on using oriental-styled patterns in a completely flat way upon a canvas – ‘Symphony in Flesh Colour and Pink’ is a perfect example.
Lisa: You studied at Lavender Hill Studios. What was that like?
Christopher: Lavender Hill Studios (now London Fine Art Studios) has been an amazing journey these last 4 years. It is a school that focuses on traditional drawing and painting skills, teaching portraiture/figure drawing in the atelier style of the schools seen in Europe during the 19th century.
The school gives you grounding in the fundamentals of drawing that really enable you to become your own artist and to express yourself without having to rely on modern art school clichés as you have the tools to boldly show your intentions. Not that there is anything wrong with modern or conceptual art but I find a lot of the visual aspect lacking due to the absence of understanding in basic drawing skills, and being able to see visually.
Lisa: What do you have in store creatively for the coming year?
Christopher: I am preparing a new project exploring different paint surfaces and dimensions, looking at the atmosphere of an interior or place rather than the interior solely itself, I am imagining it as ‘if Rothko painted interiors’ but I am sure this will change as the project matures and develops. I am hoping to translate these into etchings, trying to capture this atmosphere monochromatically… Norman Ackroyd has always been a great inspiration to me for this reason.
Lisa: What brand/s of oil paint do you like to use and for what reason/s?
Christopher: The main brand I use is Michael Harding, he produces some of the nicest colours I have worked with and I like to have certainty and consistency with my materials. I don’t tend to deviate from the brand as even a similar looking colour from a different make varies hugely when mixed.
Lisa: What are you working on at the moment?
Christopher: I am working on a series of etchings based upon sketches I have collected of doors and windows, these are going to be printed together like a collage. I have always been fascinated with portals of various kind and from around the world, there is a mystery and timelessness to them, a sense of something new.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we see more of your work?