We’ve always known the artist David Bray as an illustrator! His delicate drawings are such that his style is instantly recognisable. Now though his work has taken a different direction, from portraiture to landscape and from illustration to watercolour.
We are in the Ben Oakley Gallery. A place we know well and a spot where David has history. He’s been exhibiting here for a while. Solo shows as well as collaborations with others. David’s style has always been sought after. A safe pair of hands.
Exhibition at the Ben Oakley Gallery
In this latest show though his work is darker, more atmospheric maybe sometimes even bleak. What’s more they are landscapes. Scenes from the Kent countryside, they represent a change in direction from an artist. His work having been previously studio based. It was the physical move that made the difference. Getting out of London and into the country. It gave a wider sense of freedom. It also provided the chance to venture outside in order to experience the place where he now lived.
His move into landscapes is still quite new. Only two years but in those years he’s had two shows at the gallery we are in today. Starting by just trying things out and putting an experimental picture on instagram, he wanted to test the water to try and gauge reaction. It was Oakley himself who picked up on it. He suggested the first show and now we are here at the second.
From Illustration to Landscapes
“Initially it was very much a personal thing” he tells me. More to do with getting to know his environment than for having any deep seated desire to showcase the work. It was to be the changing seasons which had an effect. Struggling initially to get used to living outside the city. Especially with the weather in winter, spring provided a new impetus. “It just felt right” he said as he spoke of his decision to paint his landscape.
It was also his late father’s old set of watercolours which in some part inspired the move. “I would never have gone to an art store for a box of watercolours”. Telling met that he would have more likely gone straight for the Posca pens. Looking through his father’s things he came across the old set. “It’s just the fact that they were there and I thought yeah why not? Why not have just a little play?”
David has always been around art. His father worked at the Royal Academy of Arts and so he was exposed to the works of that great institution from an early age. His brother too was a huge influence “he was a really good draughtsman in his own right” he tells me. “He was a little bit older than me and I just wanted to be him”. Spending time watching and learning from his brother on evenings at home, he would copy what his brother was doing. It was there that he built up his own skills.
David describes himself as falling into a career as an illustrator. “It certainly wasn’t planned” he tells me although he always did know that he would go to art school. Moving then to do a degree in graphic design he realised he didn’t really want to be a graphic designer. Eventually moving into illustration and that’s pretty much what he’s done since.
Looking around the gallery at these latest series of works. I remark at just how fundamentally different they are from what we currently know about his style. There’s certainly something Turneresque about them. The accomplishment is there to see for someone who hadn’t even thought of watercolour landscapes until two years ago.
‘Return to Earth’ the second series of landscape paintings by David Bray is showing at the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich from 9 March 2018.. David was interviewed at the gallery on the opening night of the exhibition. You can see more articles featuring the art and artists featuring at the Ben Oakley Gallery here.