AboutâCome comrades let us mad men be brave enough to see through our eyes'
Vincent van Gogh
The art world is now a slave of mass culture. We have a sound-bite culture and so we have sound-bite art. You look at it, you get it it's as immediate and as superficial as that.
Of course many believe this to be a prevailing trend. The fear of an increasingly banal contemporary art world resembling a circus, a world of jaundiced performers waiting to be noticed. Waiting for their â15 minutes' to step on up and take a bow, but take a bow for what? that at times seems of less importance.
We hear it often; critic, Robert Hughes talks of the grip of the market as a measure considered over criticism in determining the worth of a piece of work. Amusingly stating that âThe greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.' So when we live in a culture that seems to favour only the confident where is the mechanism to embrace and recognize anything else? So forget the ego, the swagger, the hunger for recognition and the trinkets that follow; what of the work? That obsession to find that place and make the work, with little regard for all else.
These verdicts seem damning of all that is going on and relevant in the marvellous world of art (indeed perhaps beyond), or are they just the view of an aspect most presented and provoked by a media friendly world of superstar artists and record auction house sales, and the cynicism that flails in its wake?
The same Robert Hughes also said âA determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop'.
So many might think that the discovery of an artist like Ivan Bray feels like a complex rarity. For me it is certainly restorative of my own more positive albeit less mainstream views on the capabilities of art and the diversity of those who are making it. Ivan lives in a garret, by
choice and by circumstance and his work is visionary, by choice and by circumstance, breaking with modern artistic conventions.
His paintings explore his own inner thoughts both real and imagined and perhaps in doing so he holds up a mirror to our own sensibilities; love, compassion, lonliness and a reaching out for understanding. Demonstrating a need to find a place of healing, of shelter from brutality and cruelty. The work demonstrates Bray's tiptoeing of the fine line between normality and reason and madness, irrationality and fear. The paintings explore the duality of his existence where romantic beauty rubs shoulders with doubt, confusion and unease.
This adds a powerful sense of conflict to the work. Each picture looks like it needed to be painted, and ultimately, needs to be seen.
Visually Bray's paintings return to an age of the entwinement of mythology, Gods and the spiritual power of nature, of magic and mysticism, but the paintings are allegorical and are strikingly personal in their narrative and symbolism. Indeed much of the symbolism is recurrent suggesting an ongoing search for resolve that clearly drives the work on. Bray's conditioning allows him to embrace that which we so often cynically sidestep through living life in the 21st century, and in doing so perhaps he allows us to face something unchanging that dwells deep within all of us.
In my opinion he is a painter where the words superficial and immediate certainly don't apply.
Joseph Clarke. Gallery Director
'It is one of the great misfortunes of human existence that one can never be fully known and felt and when I think about it I realise that this is life's supreme affliction.'