A short conversation with Nicolas C. Grey and Dana Langlois (curator):
Dana: You mentioned that the works in the show are like two worlds, one physical and one imaginary, that are colliding into each other and slowly dissolving, disappearing. Did you plan the show that way?
Nic: It was organic. It started with Supreme Power Structure of the Interior Worlds, the big one, which took a while – because I drew it and re-drew it. It has a narrative but it’s not clear what – it is set on a moonscape that instead of stars and planets there are cells, organic living things. Where you are unsure if it’s in space or in the body.
Dana: Did this serve as a starting point as a concept of the show?
Nic: Yes, it became about the tension between the imaginary world and reality. I had an idea of what I wanted before I started, but mainly it appeared while I created it. Then one piece informed the next piece. Concurrent to that I had this theme of mystery, similar to my exhibition The Mystique of the Orient (2008), that refers to Asia’s appeal to the West as a place or mystery.
Dana: There are recurring images, like the eye, in this series of works. Can you explain what it means? How do you use symbols in your work?
Nic: That’s the point where the two worlds collide. Same with the recurring image of the white glowing thing – it’s the other world coming through. I suppose the eye represents the internal world. When you look into someone’s eyes you get a sense of who they are, what kind of person you are. It is a symbol of that crossing point between the external and internal worlds.
The symbol of the eye and the white glow poses the question of “what is the relation between the physical world and the world of imagination?”
“To ‘solve the mystery’ I break down the forms and symbols into their most basic elements of line, color and texture, until everything slowly begins to dissolve.” Nicolas C. Grey, 2015
There are other symbols in this work, that also show up in my comics and other artwork. They are a bit organic, amoeba-like creatures coming from another world – intruders. This juxtaposition between one world and another world.
Dana: You have said that you are influenced by “pop culture propaganda” – what are you referring to when you say that? What are your other influences, both aesthetic and content?
Nic: I’m referring to Orientalism – which is contradictory. Sometimes pop culture in Asia is complicit in maintaining the propaganda of exoticism. It is also quite amorphous – you see it in American pulp fiction too.
For this show, I was especially influenced by the old illustrations from pulp fiction books. And sci-fi books – because they are trying to give a sense of mystery and excitement in an image, an all in one hit.
Obviously philosophy is a big influence.
Dana: Anything or anyone in particular?
Nic: If I say anyone specific it would be a bit misleading. I’m also influenced by religious paintings, like Buddhist images of hell, but especially Catholic pictures of serenity and with weird things going on – very contradictory. Not all Christian imagery is like that, but a specific branch of it is.