Art Exhibition Review:
Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf,
Tower Bridge, London, Sunday 11th November 2012
Chris Livett / Thames Luxury Charters present

Ebb and Flow:
Painter of London Life Ed Gray

An Exhibition of Recent Work by Ed Gray
aboard The Dixie Queen Boat at Butlers Wharf,
Tower Bridge, London
Saturday 10th November 2012, 11am-6pm
Sunday 11th November 2012, 11am-5pm

Date of Review: 2012/11/12

Exhibition attended 2012/11/11

All images by kind permission of the artist and © Ed Gray. All rights reserved.
Ed Gray's 'All Upon A Lovely Summer's Day'
'All Upon A Lovely Summer's Day.' Ed Gray, acrylic and pencil on paper, 120cm x 100cm. 2012
Artist's Description: The painting, initially inspired by Seurat's 'Bathers at Asnières,' is based on Pete Berryman's song 'The Mermaid of Hampstead Heath' and relates to a hazy fleeting romance that took place many years ago upon the Heath which resulted in Pete's 'mermaid' tying daisies into his hair whilst she made her exit.

The left side of the painting features members of Burton Bradstock's band and Burton himself calling to the mermaid who is floating away from him. Images from the song fill the painting - the chessboard with its lost match - the victorious Queen dominating the King, the seahorse tattoo.

The right side of the painting features people that I've observed and sketched whilst I've been going to the mixed pond to swim and to think and to get away from the busy streets of London. These include the lifeguard with the red shorts and the wild-eyed rasta who was surrounded with notebooks and jottings when I first saw him. He was also espousing the benefits of urophagia. In the painting I've given him the task of transcribing the lyrics to the 19th c songs from Burton's album.

Essentially the painting is about the search for creativity and moment when inspiration hits. As an artist you are continually engaged with this search. This applies to my own practice but also to Burton as he breathes new life to old folk songs and in turn is reawakened to the spirits and stories of the past. Hampstead ponds are the place I go to where time seems to stand still and it's possible to lose yourself and connect with the spirit of London's past.
Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf,
Tower Bridge, London, Sunday 11th November 2012

'Pop up' galleries seem to be getting almost a commonplace these days. However, Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf, Tower Bridge was something special in being hosted in the first floating 'pop up' gallery aboard a Thames river boat, the Dixie Queen.

The largest ever show of Ed Gray paintings and prints, the space aboard the Dixie Queen was wonderfully spacious, allowing good viewing distances even for the largest exhibit, Gray's recent 2 metre panorama of the City of London following his time as artist - in - residence at Searcys Club in the Gherkin, in comfort.

Ed Gray, 'Little Jimmy Scott at Ronnie Scotts Soho'
'Little Jimmy Scott at Ronnie Scotts Soho.' Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 120x110cm. 2005

As such, the Dixie Queen provided a pleasant, even ideal exhibition space. It was also delightfully well attended. By the time I attended the exhibition on mid-afternoon, Sunday, crew that I spoke to estimated an attendance of about nine hundred thus far. (Gray himself later stated attendance at over six hundred over the full two days plus the private viewing on the 9th..)

My first encounter with Ed Gray's paintings was a fairly recent one, when I received a CD for review, Burton Bradstock's All Upon A Lovely Summer's Day, the cover of which was graced with a reproduction of Gray's painting The Mermaid Of Hampstead Heath.


As this came into view as the CD slid out of its package, my immediate thought was 'Hampstead Heath!' And, looking at this cover art, albeit small in size, I have to confess to having been immediately enamoured with it, its vast amount of detail, the immediacy of its reportage approach, and Gray's wonderful, approachable and accessible style. (The recognition of the Heath was hardly surprising as I lived off it for many years in the past and am still a great lover of this wonderful space where one can lose oneself and one's thoughts. Indeed, the Heath is what I miss most about London, living out of town now.)

Of course, there also was the very recognisable figure of Burton Bradstock at centre left of the image, and I could recognise pianist Dorian Ford at extreme left. The rest of the image's elements became immediately clear upon hearing the song, The Mermaid Of Hampstead Heath. Imagery and song lyrics seemed like a perfect match and entirely self-explanatory. Such perfection all round!

Ed Gray, 'Nothing to see here'
'Nothing to see here' Whitehall. Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 150x110cm. 2008

Needless to say, I was more than intrigued, and when a few weeks later Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf, Tower Bridge took place I was, naturally, more than compelled to attend.

Ed Gray, 'The Old English Gentleman' Edgeware Road
'The Old English Gentleman' Edgeware Road. Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 150x110cm. 2008

Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf, Tower Bridge proved something of a revelation and extremely exciting and stimulating.

The majority of the paintings and prints (some of the originals were in private collections and unavailable) were, as one would have expected, in one way or another concerned with London life. From street scenes to a boxing match, from the Notting Hill Carnival to a peace protest opposite the Houses of Parliament and a jazz gig at Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club in Soho, and much more, London life in all its cosmopolitan, multicultural variety was all there, often in vibrant, glorious 'technicolor.'

Ed Gray, 'Speakers Corner' Hyde Park
'Speakers Corner' Hyde Park. Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 150x110cm. 2008

These images were alive! They captured the moment, or a series of moments, to perfection. The term reportage fits them perfectly. Photo reportage, along with photography in general, may be dead, and the giants of the genre, such as the seminal André Kertész (2nd July 1894 - 28th September 1985), the arguably-termed 'father of photo journalism' Henri Cartier-Bresson (22nd August 1908 - 3rd August 2004) or Robert Doisneau (14th April 1912 - 1st April 1994) long gone. But reportage as a true art form flourishes with a few artists such as Ed Gray! Gray and others have brought reportage to a vibrant, vivacious new life as art, as opposed to the craft of photography. Indeed, the demise of intelligent photography  may  well  be giving new impetus to art and


see in a revival, after the long doldrums of the kind of thing that has made the Turner prize a meaningless laughingstock for too long.

Gray's reportage is astutely, acutely observed, and often takes in the minutest detail. Rather than freezing the moment, or series of moments, Gray brings it/them to life. In so doing, he invites the viewer to not merely contemplate the image but to partake in it, to step right in and look around.

Ed Gray, 'Liverpool St 2'
'Liverpool St 2.' Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 120x110cm. 2007

Sometimes, Gray uses slightly distorted perspectives in order for example to accommodate more detail, or to place emphasis, not entirely unlike Constable often did. His lines are well defined, with usually hard edges, getting softer in the distance.

Colours tend to be strong, often vivid. Canvas textures are usually well preserved (although sadly but inevitably lost in these reproductions), aided by the acrylic medium used.

Stylistically, Gray seems to owe as much to Hogarth, and the Expressionists as to the Surrealists, as well as to more modern schools and certain 20th century cartoons, but essentially, he has succeeded in developing a very individualistic and pleasing style all of his own.

Ed Gray, 'Liverpool St 1'
'Liverpool St 1.' Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 120x110cm. 2007

'French Chefs' Butlers Wharf. Ed Gray, acrylic on canvas 150x110cm. 2007

Among works not shown here were Gray's newly unveiled portrait of South London tailor to the stars George Dyer The Threadneedleman, Rock Of Eye, and his recent enormous 2 metre panorama of the City of London following his time as artist - in - residence at Searcys Club in the Gherkin. The latter takes in the view from near the top of said building and covers the City and beyond. It includes all the latest hideous high-rise carbuncles inflicted upon the City and periphery except for, obviously, the Gherkin itself. The panorama consists of a series of individual pieces of paper, carefully aligned. The view is spectacular, and from a greater distance appears almost photo-realistic.

Of the other works not shown here, a print of a mainly monochrome sketch of a boxing match almost hypnotically drew the eye. No photograph could ever have caught this moment as impressively as this.

As for the nine stunning images shown here, I prefer to let these speak for themselves, as the artist intended, as indeed any piece of art must, rather than commenting on them further.

Let it suffice to say that Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf, Tower Bridge was perfectly stunning, artistically, visually and any other way one cares to think of, and a true celebration of London. Any genuine connoisseur of art could not have failed to be gripped by collector's lust.


All in all, Ed Gray's Exhibition Ebb & Flow aboard the Dixie Queen, Butlers Wharf, Tower Bridge appears to have been a great success, which surely is nothing less than the artist deserved. It was also another proof that modern art is not always excretable, reassurance that genuine artists still exist out there.

All original work in the show is sold, but limited edition high quality inkjet prints are available of each painting. Edition sizes 95 and 195. For sales and enquiries contact Gray's gallery.

© 2012 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

Acknowledgements and Info

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Ed Gray for kindly supplying the images shown here.
All images are © Ed Gray and all rights reserved.

More on Ed Gray here:
Ed Gray Art (@edgrayart) on Twitter
PA to Ed Gray:

Ed Gray, 'I am Bacchanal' Notting Hill Carnival
'I am Bacchanal' Notting Hill Carnival. Ed Gray, acrylic, chalk, charcoal, glitter on canvas 160x120cm. 2012
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