Kevin Francis Gray

For nearly two decades, Northern Irish artist, Kevin Francis Gray, has created compelling marble sculpture, bringing stone-carving to the forefront of contemporary art.

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.

Highlights
  • Solo show, Kevin Francis Gray at Stefano Bardini Museum, Florence, 2020
  • Solo show Kevin Francis Gray at Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen, 2018
  • Solo show, at the Villa Santo Sospir, the old home of French poet, Jean Cocteau, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, 2017
  • Solo show at Pace Gallery, New York, New York, 2017
  • Group show, Love Story: the Anne and Wolfgang Titze Collection at the Belvedere Museum, Vienna, 2014
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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.

 

“It’s taken me years as an artist to actually have the bravery to not feel that the history of the subject is key but rather that the subject him or herself is key”
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Kevin Francis Gray Reclining Nude II (2017). Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.

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Kevin Francis Gray Young God Standing (2020) Photo courtesy of the artist
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Kevin Francis Gray Bust of Cáer (2018) Photo courtesy of the artist

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.

 

 

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Kevin Francis Gray Young Sun Boy (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.
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Kevin Francis Gray The Breakdown Works (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.
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Kevin Francis Gray The Lovers (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.
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