Rotherhithe artist Ed Gray unveiled three new works in his never-ending quest to document his beloved London through his art. This exhibition, The Passing Show: Adoration Paintings of London, brings together the majority of Gray’s London paintings, completed over several years, and allows the viewer to see his development as an artist and also follow the evolution of his work, writes Michael Holland…
In his introductory speech the artist spoke of his love for Rotherhithe and how London is a constant source of inspiration to him. So much so that he has future paintings planned that would take several lifetimes to complete. We heard how he continually strives to achieve perfection in more complex compositions, how this doesn’t always work first time, and how he persists until a picture finally comes right. He says: ‘The journey you make with a painting is one where you listen to your heart and venture into the unknown. You become obsessed, you beat yourself up, you doubt yourself but you are drawn ever onwards into the dark, always searching for the light. Over many months and many canvases I rework paintings over and over.’
This has meant fewer artworks being completed between exhibitions, but what we get now are bigger, bolder pictures that draw you into the world they depict; art that demands more of your time and attention as you focus on the minutiae included in each new work.
And it is the smallest of details that make Ed Gray one of the capital’s most sought after artists; the discarded takeaway carton, the religious flyer flying on the wind after it has been dropped seconds after being accepted; the Man City fan with his fingers crossed in the middle of a mob of Gooners, and the pigeons. Always the pigeons. There is also the ever-changing physical landscape that can be viewed over time via Gray’s work. Buildings in earlier works are no more, while more glass and steel structures seemingly appear overnight. In his Adoration series these sky-scraping erections become the altars to a new religion.
But it is the secrets in the paintings that I am intrigued by: What does Esco mean in the Adoration of the Thomas a Becket? Who are the people fighting in The Adoration of the Cockney Rebels? Why is there a can on the floor of The Adoration at the Lion’s Den, Zampa Road, Millwall FC? What is the significance of the security van in Lucky Tiger, Whitechapel Road? And it is these secret additions to his work that he talks about on the guided tours he gives of the exhibition. His walk and talk events give a real insight into the inner workings of Ed Gray’s mind and reveal what he goes through mentally to create art. It is then that you realise that these are not just paintings of London, not just moments caught in time, but pictures that bring together historic and current events to that place.
The free guided tours are on March 17th, 5 pm and April 14th, 5pm, but places need to be booked by emailing your name to: email@example.com
The Passing Show: Adoration Paintings of London can be seen at The Crypt. St Martin’s in the Field, Trafalgar Square until April 30th. Times: 9am – 10pm. Admission: Free.