at Hamish McKay Gallery,
May 2 – May 19
It was a cold and dark night, the professional gallery opening goers were lurking in every shadow and I wandered up the creaky stairs to Hamish McKay Gallery. Located near New World Metro, the gallery was having its last exhibition before it moves to Ghuznee Street. Guest of honour was dark and mysterious heavy metal inspired printmaker Jason Greig with his Burnout series of works.
One thing that becomes immediately apparent when you walk into a Jason Greig exhibition is that his works are really dark and it is difficult to pin down exactly what these archetypal paintings meant . I found Greig lurking in the side room of the gallery and we had a refreshingly unpretentious chat.
Hailing from Christchurch, Greig mentioned that he got “spat out of art school” in 1987. Since 1993 he has been working with monoprint, a medium he took up due to poverty as he couldn’t afford all the materials for etching like zinc plates and acid. While he was teaching in Oamaru it was part of the curriculum and he was soon hooked due to the possibilities of where it can lead artistically.
When I got around to asking him what his influences are he mentioned that he gravitates towards symbolism and European influences from around the past. As an adolescent he had an obsession with surrealism to which he remarked, “grew out of that thank Christ!” He then got into what he termed neo graphic symbolism, with dream like effects. He rejects the idea of having a manifesto of any sort, instead he likes to just let it all flow out.
Since he rejects the calculated approach to art I asked him if he was an expressionist in the mould of someone like Sydney Pollack. He replied, “I get sick of that kind of cliché, but I think… Oh bugger I was just going to say something that was quite profound, but um… I just want to make stuff you can look at over and over again and you will find something different each time.”
“This was certainly true with my favourite work which was titled Hopeful Christians which is of two men standing on a moor and a figure is approaching them hovering above the misty water. Always being drawn back to it I was forced to wonder whether the figure was benign or malign. He was right, I could feel different things deep inside each time I wandered back to check it out.”
I asked him if it was a masterpiece that took a lot of effort and was genuinely surprised when he just quipped, “Yeah it was a complete fuck up until about three weeks ago, until I found it under a pile of crap in one my work rooms.
I just decided bugger this, what have I got to lose? I just started attacking it again and it came right”.
Still wondering about what Hopeful Christians actually meant I asked him if there were any definite meanings to his works or whether it was intended to be left up to the viewer to make up their own mind. “Well I like that ambiguity, they are in a bit of a state of flux, they’re not absolute. There’s a fine balance between making something boring and exciting.” Mocking Bird is a case in point as it’s so sinister looking. A crow like bird is standing there with the lower body of a man, you don’t know whether it is just going to stand there or peck your eyes out like the raven in Omen 2.
Finally I asked him if he has a website and he said ,”No, no. The galleries do, but I can’t be bothered with that crap to be honest… Well you can tell I’m a 17th century man and I don’t give a shit. If I had a computer in my home I’d be stuffed, an answerphone is bad enough. I just have to get on with my work, I haven’t got time to fuck around”. We then briefly flicked through some art magazines that were on a nearby table which had some background information on the guy. The articles on him had stuff like ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ and ‘I’d like to thank my parents, God and Satan’. Having taken a journey through the grim side of the human psyche, where macabre forces of darkness rule in the shadows I soon left Grieg to continue chilling out with a glass of wine.
Greig is unpretentious, intriguing, ambiguous, and highly talented. Pop up to Hamish McKay Gallery on Level 1 50 Willis Street for one final time before the move to Ghuznee Street. Among the moving boxes ponder the mysterious renowned monoprints of heavy metal loving artist Jason Greig.