Wheels, Wills, Wells: Kévin Bray @ Future Gallery, Berlin
The challenge of capturing reality, portraying emotional states, or imagining alternate worlds has been a major drive for artists through the centuries, pushing the limitations of their materials and technique through their practices. At the same time, the newly discovered possibilities constantly open new doors for fresh conceptual approaches and research, inducing new ways of thinking, connecting information, understanding the past and/or present, and affecting the future. So when a technique as potent as digital image and animation came into the picture, the possibilities of such efforts sprouted in unpredictable directions and are continuously developing at an incredible pace. We had this realization after having a conversation with Kévin Bray about his solo show Wheels, Wills, Wells which is now on view at Future Gallery in Berlin.
Inspired by the premise that "imago" is a Latin word used to signify the copy or likeness of anything that exists or had existed, the French artist is focused on constructing images of things that don't exist or don't exist yet. Interested in the human relationship with tools and technologies in the broadest possible way, from signs, over typography all the way to hi-tech tools, he is mixing techniques, motifs, and formal languages in order to create images, paintings, videos, and sculptures. At the same time, by animating such imagery and projecting it on relief surfaces, his digital paintings are attributed with volume, which surpasses the possibilities of traditional formats. Finally, by projecting and illuminating the space with his imagery Bray is reversing the traditional notion of the image being a depiction of something that passed, a shadow of reality. And all this is only a brief, surface layer of the rich technical concepts behind his work, through which he then develops more detailed, specific observations and references, regularly inspired or influenced by the history as well as the social impact of image-making, animation, and digital technologies.
Oscillating between several media, namely video, graphic design, and sound design, Bray keeps developing his oeuvre from his 2018 video Morpher by expanding its elements through further explorations of the particularities of a medium. The original story of being in search of an identity, for itself, as much as for its own context of exploration got elaborated into 4 episodes until today, through the use of philosophy, media literacy, narratology, and symbolism. For this presentation, the artist created three sculptural works on which digital animations are projected, constructing an illusion of physicality and movement. Referencing everything from Edward Muybridge's pioneering work in photographic studies of motion, onion skinning, the discovery of rotary tools or the wheel and human ongoing disconnection from nature, all the way to screen scrolling, as well as trolling culture, these animated sculptures are paying tribute to tools that contributed to creating better, more elaborate fiction and fake the reality. By repurposing historically significant methods with modern-day technologies, the artist is creating a paradox in which, for example, Muybridge's observations of horse gaits are transferred to the virtual sphere, both embracing and critiquing what's recognized as human progress.
With moving surfaces underneath them these pieces are navigating the viewer towards the digital paintings unusually displayed in the 2nd room of the meticulously synchronized exhibition. Activated on queue from the central screen projecting Morpher video, these bas-relief projection screens are an example of the ways Bray relates his practice with traditional formats. "For me, my videos are paintings and the way I deal with them is like painting, but the way I approach them at the end has nothing to do with it," the artist told Juxtapoz about this relationship. Using ink on paper drawing as the base of his work, he then proceeds to digitalize his images, adds volume to them, and finally attributes them with surface qualities by projecting different effects, patterns, or movements on them. "I really like this idea of creating a micro reality in which everything is in dialogue with each other and all the subjects are depending on each other to be understood," Bray told us explaining how these effectively abstract elements come together in a bigger, narrative-driven picture. Such an approach to developing his practice allows for recycling and continuous improvement of his concepts while feeding the interconnectivity and the importance of every single piece from his oeuvre in relation to original video work from which it all originates. —Sasha Bogojev
Kévin Bray also has an installation on view at The Dordrechts Museum which is on view through August 1st