Kevin Francis Gray

Compelling marble sculptures that return stone-carving to the forefront of contemporary art.

Kevin Francis Grey concentrating on a sculpture in front of him, to which he reaches towards with one hand
close-up of artist using a tool to chip away and carve out a marble sculpture from the block
large marble sculpture of three intertwined bodies, with two rows of smaller sculptures on shelves behind them
6 images

Kevin Francis Gray was born in Northern Ireland in 1972, and now lives and works in London, UK.

Did you know?

Unlike many of his peers who use laser cutters and other high-tech tools, Gray works by hand from start to finish - with techniques remarkably similar to those used centuries ago by Italian Renaissance and Baroque sculptors like Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Giuseppe Sanmartino.

Practice

Fashion designer Hedi Slimane, a renowned connoisseur of good taste known for leading luxury houses Saint Laurent and Céline, is an avid collector of the artist's work.

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artist Kevin Francis Gray working on one of his marble sculptures in the studio
I’m very interested in that idea of changing the dynamic of how the stone is seen and how people respond to itKevin Francis Gray

Exhibitions

Practice overview

Gray fuses contemporary themes and aesthetics with his own personal musings. Many of his works, which range from busts, to life-size figures and reclining nudes, are presented on traditional plinths that incorporate juxtaposing modernist forms. Gray uses a variety of techniques and materials including hand-carving marble, casting bronze, and mixing them with wood, various stones, and industrial metals. The sculptures are immensely textural, alternating between a hyperreal, high-polished finish which looks almost too perfect to be man-made; to a coarse, raw finish which highlights both the hand of the artist in marks left from Gray’s gauging fists and fingers, and the power of the natural stone. Gray's early oeuvre features classically-inspired veiled figures; in his more recent work, the identities of his subjects are just as obscured but through the increased abstraction of the works, instead of the act of veiling.

In his 2020 solo exhibition at Museo Stefano Bardini in Florence, Gray's work is set within the permanent collection at the museum, which features an epic mix of woodwork, paintings, sculptures, and artifacts, from antiquity to the 18th century. Reclining Nude II (2017), for instance, is a marble sculpture of an anamorphic female form, reimagining the familiar trope of it’s title. The brilliant, white tone of the marble complements the stone features of the room, as well as the relics from classical architecture that adorn the walls. This expressive style is also seen in works such as Young God Standing (2020) and Bust of Cáer (2018). These pieces are key in Gray's oeuvre, as they mark a shift in his practice: ever-evolving from traditional figuration towards more instinctive and abstract forms.

Having grown up during the Troubles in South Armagh, themes of violence resonate through Gray's practice, albeit subconsciously. In his more recent work, Kevin has turned to Irish mythology, exploring his heritage in a fresh and personal way. In works such as Young Sun Boy (2020), Gray depicts the Irish God of sun, Lugh. The marble bust mixes the artist’s signature carving techniques with modernist elements of bronze plate that slice into the body of the character. While this physically invasive gesture is uncomfortable to imagine, the discomfort is overridden by the delicacy and tender beauty of the works. It is this combination of beauty and the grotesque, realism and abstraction, history and folklore, that makes Gray an exciting and reverent sculptor of our time.

“It’s what lies beneath that fascinates me.”Kevin Francis Gray

Journals about this artist