Traditions meet Modern-Day: New Tsimshian Art by Phil Gray

Phil Gray continues to amaze us with the clean, precise and evocative work he creates for The Douglas Reynolds Gallery. His newest red cedar panel, titled “Mosquito” shows the mastery of Formline that Phil Gray is famous for. This panel shows the Mosquito’s head in the top left quadrant, with his proboscis extending from the bottom right corner of the ovoid around the eye. The face on the right side of the panel is a human face, showing the transformative properties of Mosquito. In the stories, Mosquito rises from the ashes of a cannibal giant that was trapped and burned. Click here to read more.

Red Cedar "Mosquito" panel by Tsimshian artist Phil GrayRed Cedar "Mosquito" panel by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray

We have another piece here at the Douglas Reynolds Gallery by Phil Gray, also completed this year. It is in a completely different style and method than the red cedar Mosquito panel above. A large scale portrait mask titled “Mountain”, the smooth finish of the red cedar panel is replaced here with rugged knife finishing.

Red Cedar "Mountain" portrait mask by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray

The title is clear when you look at this mask as a whole. The stone grey base and face, with the gradation on top from a muddier white to a pure white peak. The dark bluish lips and the snow-white top elicit the sensation of a cold, stony mountain. This is a larger piece, 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The traditional knife finishing of this piece, and the cedar rope around the edge stands in contradiction to its modern touch. The colours would fit in many contemporary designed spaces, making this piece a great example of artwork that sits between traditions and current sensibilities. Phil Gray is a master of working with traditional storytelling, symbols and forms, while bringing them into the contemporary northwest coast First Nations art world with a modern feel. To walk the line between classical and modern is a very challenging thing to do, and Phil Gray navigates the transfiguration expertly.

Red Cedar "Mountain" portrait mask by Tsimshian artist Phil GrayRed Cedar "Mountain" portrait mask by Tsimshian artist Phil Gray