A Wave Called Panic
When, by his own admission, the biggest inspiration for Chris Gray’s illustrations are the general public – “the majority of them are absolutely bonkers” – it comes as no surprise then that he has taken some of the more original content of our heavily graffitied toilet walls as the starting point for ‘A Wave Called Panic’, his exhibition at Common which opens on Thursday 14th May.
Having grown up in a tiny town that no-one has heard of, Chris left behind a childhood of close collaborations with his brother on epic stickman wars and Letraset novels and came north. After failed careers in psychology; music technology; IT; retail and cheese, a degree in graphic design lead to the world of advertising. But that didn’t last long either with Chris setting-up Toy, an illustration/art label, in October of last year. As a small community, Toy not only allows each of the nine young illustrators from around Europe the opportunity to collaborate on larger projects, it also gives them the support and protection they need when working in the big, bad world of commercial design.
When it comes to his own work, Chris is as much a fan of the work of classic graphic designers Alan Fletcher, Paul Rand and Saul Bass as he is street artists like Todd James, yes, even when he’s drawing “three heads vomiting into each other” or “a man with a massive head trying to squeeze through a small door”. He also really, really likes Vimto. Don’t get us wrong: we like Vimto too, but he thinks it’s better than tea.
Whilst the starting point for Chris’ exhibition is maybe a little more high-concept than we’re typically used to here at Common, Chris has reassuringly humble ambitions for his work : “I tried to take the pressure off by just having fun with it. If it can at least make a few people smile and spot a few of the little hidden treats then I’ll be happy”. His simple shapes, bright colours and strong visual sense of humour should work well with the random gibberish that’s been scribbled over the years, and I’m sure he’ll be keeping the profanity to a respectable level! So, despite the exhibition’s title, I don’t think there’s any need to panic at all, we’re in good hands.