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Detail of a Rachel Gray work. Photo: Livia Belcea/Apt613.

Exhibition: Rachel Gray, Gabriela Avila-Yiptong and Lea Hamilton’s I Came Back and Things Were Different at the City Hall Art Gallery—vernissage 05.02.19

By Livia Belcea on April 29, 2019

Inspired by a recent camping trip in the Everglades in Florida, Rachel Gray, a visual artist living in Ottawa, presents an immersive large-scale visual representation of the connection she forged with the wild, unforgiving and intense concentration of life while in Florida.

Gray was moved by the harshness and decaying aspect of the Everglades, who in spite of that, serve as rich ecosystem for a variety of plants, bodies of water, animals and other organisms.

Detail of a Rachel Gray work. Photo: Livia Belcea/Apt613.

Gray encourages viewers to immerse themselves into her drawings by inviting them to move through the exhibition space freely and to admire the Everglades’ elaborate design, just as she did. Recalling the intense heat, vivid sounds and ruggedness of the environment, Gray explains that through the process of recreating scenes from photographs and her memory, she is herself re-entering that space and rediscovering the integrity and structure of her subject. She approaches the visual recreation of the rich foliage and canopy with the same meticulous attention and care she would drawing a human face, giving each tree, branch and leaf its individuality.

The artist at work. Photo: Livia Belcea/Apt613.

Gray describes the process of creating her art as a record of motion of time. Her moving body, hands and fingers are not only visible on the wall, but also legible in every stroke and line drawn. Working with flexible mediums such as plaster, chalk, charcoal and water, she has the option of revisiting and recreating her work as it moves along, and thus highlighting the dynamic and unstable nature of both the Everglades and art.

Complementing the exhibit are the works of Gabriela Avila-Yiptong and Lea Hamilton, who bring organic and ephemeral elements to sculpture and installation.

I Came Back and Things Were Different will challenge the conception that art must be persevered to remain beautiful or relevant and offer the alternative that it can draw value from its decaying and changing nature, particularly when it is created from organic matter.


I Came Back and Things Were Different will be on display at the City Hall Art Gallery (110 Laurier Ave W) from May 2 to June 26, 2019. A vernissage will take place on May 2 from 5:30–7:30pm and an artist-led tour on Sunday June 9 at 2pm. Admission to the exhibit is free. The City Hall Art Gallery is open daily from 9am to 8pm and is accessible for visitors with mobility devices. You can visit Rachel Gray’s website or follow her on Instagram.


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