Casey Gray took the time to answer quite a handful of questions about his latest exhibition Garden Party which is now showing at White Walls through November 3rd. Here, he discusses everything from the evolution of painting to his favorite track of the moment.
Continue reading after the jump-
Your compositions typically involve heavy patterning, and kaleidoscopic palettes. Formally, it bears similarities to 20th century psychedelic painting. Has this genre had a stylistic influence on you?
I wouldn’t say that the genre has been a specific influence of mine, but I have been attracted to the color palette and overall optimism of psychedelic art for many years.
How does the fine art world react to sensory stimulating art, where your canvas is visually saturated with bright and abstract patterning? Do you think there is a preference for art to be more conceptual among ‘high-brow’ galleries? Have you come up against the idea that the very medium of spray paint is more ‘craft,’ than a medium for fine art, or do you think that has been successfully outdated?
Reactions to my work has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part. There are always a few haters. Preferences in conceptual foundations vary with any gallery at any level. Spray paint has been used in contemporary painting for decades. Anybody who still thinks that it is somehow subversive at this point is naive.
What’s it like to venture into complete abstraction, i.e. the grip tape series? Are these works an exercise in ‘art for art’s sake’ or do they offer a different methodology for the viewer, since you described your creative process as meditative and contemplative?
It’s rewarding. For me, abstraction is a way of exploring larger concepts that don’t necessarily have any questions or answers. My grip tape works are one example of this. They function on many different conceptual, emotional and formal levels for me, however the viewer can think what they want about them. They are not for everybody.
Why 17th century Flemish art? Any there any other time periods or genres you would like to re-investigate through your style?
The work in Garden Party is not about investigating a time period. It’s about investigating and developing a stylistic approach to painting, as well as what constitutes traditional or “general” subject matter throughout history and into today. I’m particularly attracted to Flemish Baroque painting for its approach to realism and composition coupled with a healthy sense of imagination. The Dutch Golden Age has always been one of my favorite periods in art, so it seemed quite natural to begin there. I do plan on making work based on other periods and subjects throughout history such as religious painting and nautical themes, however that is much further down the line. Still life painting is just one stepping stone on the path to future work.
Your spray paint technique is quite versatile. It can blend in with your stenciling to resemble traditional acrylic style, but then also appears in some places to be applied directly, forming a pixelated effect more typical of aerosol. In the spirit of traditional Flemish painters, are you demonstrating the range of your medium?
Stenciling as a technique is quite controlled and can be very limiting in that way. Although I need a certain amount of control in my work to feel comfortable, it is important to me to be able to break lose from this constraint in any particular piece and just be expressive. You have to allow the medium to be what it is. I find a healthy balance of both carefully planned and gestural mark making to be ideal.
Your paintings refer to various cultural signifiers, such as Southwestern indigenous textiles, Hellenic kraters, and Chinoiserie vases. What are you exploring through this thematic range?
Nothing is exclusive anymore. My blending of traditional cultural motifs from an array of geographical locations, societies and time periods into a soupy mess of decoration is a reflection of the dislocation of the internet and the way it can negate an images past and context. The metaphorical melting pot.
Do you think now, in the global digital age, traditional painting has a diminished role, or is its role changing? Do you think many of your peers are conscious of their place within the continuum of contemporary and traditional painting?
Painting is more exciting now than it has ever been largely due to the inclusion and advancement of technology. The range of what constitutes contemporary painting is vast and ever expanding and very exciting. It’s been my experience that many artists are aware of their place in contemporary painting and less so throughout history. Not everyone shares that interest. It doesn’t mean their work is any less good or valuable.
Many art historians have posited that photography replaced traditional painting, and more specifically genre painting. You are not painting from life, but instead are using photographic imagery from the internet as a mash-up similar to how a DJ samples music. Do you think photography in the digital era has replaced the need to paint from life in genre work?
I don’t think anything ever replaces anything else in art, it just adds to the conversation. Photography never replaced painting because nothing can replace something that is singular in and of itself. Digital photography has not replaced the need to paint from life. Rather, it has opened up a new way of understanding the still life. We all have digital lives on the internet through social media, email, etc. that are intangible but still very real. It is in this realm that my still life work resides, neither real nor imaginary.
Over the weekend you put out a mixtape to coincide with the show. When did you first start mixing music? Would you rather be in the crowd than djing?
I’ve been DJing/mixing since late 2006/early 2007 or so, mostly just as a hobby, but I’ve been listening to electronic music for a lot longer than that however. Gigs are always fun but I rarely get the opportunity to play out anymore. The majority of my time is spent in the studio now painting. Being in the crowd is great as long as the music is good, but nothing compares to being in the booth and having control of a crowd.
What are you listening to now and any favorite performances you’ve seen this year? I know you went to massive dance club Fabric in London earlier this month, how crazy was that?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Deep House lately. It seems fitting with the colder and shorter days. That Nu Disco summer vibe is over you know? My favorite track right now is definitely “Benediction” by Hot Natured with Ali Love on vocals. Its absolutely incredible and one of the best tracks of the year so far I would say. Really looking forward to the next EP from my roommates, The M Machine. Shit is mind blowing. You can catch them live at Ruby Skye on November 10th. Favorite performances this year would have to be Hostage at Fabric in London with Lauren (best date night ever) and The M Machine at the Fox Theatre in Oakland. Too many shows to remember honestly.
Skateboarding has played a role in your life since you were a kid, do you have any stories for us about breaking a bone, outrunning the cops? All my friends would scrawl things like “Kurt Cobain forever” and yin yang symbols all over their decks, willing to confess any embarrassing motifs from teen years?
Never broken a bone skating actually, knock on wood. Blew my ankle out real bad one time though. Ran from the cops more times than I can count. I can’t really think of anything too specific right now. It all sort of blends together at this point. I remember one of my friends bashing a 40oz. over this gang bangers head one time while skating this bench spot in La Jolla. These dudes were hasseling us for some reason and next thing you know, BAM!, my friend just dropped this fool. It was pretty intense.
I keep my grip pretty clean these days. I went through a phase of stenciling hip hop legends on my grip for a while, Biggie, Tupac, Andre3000, etc. Never anything embarrassing though.
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