It's difficult to compartmentalize the work of artist Jose Ray — he dances between his childlike imagination through his books but also evokes the role of a contemporary artist during his latest body of work, “Flora" — a personal journey and re-awakening for him.
Without an exhibition of his own in many years, he is exploring the simple joys of art as an expression on a two-day residency at Sulfur Studios.
“I began making these small pieces and the dimensions were between 11x17 and 18x24. They were made as gifts for friends and family members. There were all smaller scale pieces. Then something happened and I began to explore drawing.” he said with a laugh, adding, “I really love drawing. The freeform and the action it takes, it allows me to explore my art differently. These pieces gave me the time and space to do just that — explore; explore their organic textures and renderings. At the start of each piece its all conscientious and I understand they are florals but after a while, as I work, I let that organic flow take over.”
The florals, which are all abstract in nature, demands the attention of each viewer with each piece open to individual interpretation and assimilation.
“These are all forms that interested me. I really do like undulating types of lines and flowy bold lines in my work. There is a big correlation to what I was doing back in my SCAD years and what I am doing with 'Flora,' he said. "I think this might be the first time I have found an outlet for it. My pieces are a bit re-active and that's something you might not say about a painting with or without flowers. It is not just a pretty picture of a flowers. That is not what I do....some of it is quite layered."
He added that "Flora" is the beginning of what he calls his watercolor period. “This is the base and where I choose a color palette and mood. Here is where I am pushing the forms and to me it is like looking for forms in the clouds. It evolves and there is a huge window of opportunity for design. It is design heavy and I love design. I love the idea of drawing and implied shapes and looking at it from the eye of a designer. This show is hitting all those marks for me. “
Jose Ray is a multi-dimensional artist. A well-known children’s book author, a painter and muralist — not to mention, you might have danced to his music at one of Savannah’s nightclubs where he is a resident DJ. For that reason, "Flora" will incorporate a bit more than paintings and the artist promises to engage audiences and many of their senses.
"I am including a few installations to the space of 'Flora.' I have always been very interested in stage design. I am using some construction foam like materials to create an environment for 'Flora,'" he said. "For the audience, the experience won’t be that of just looking at floral paintings on a wall, but they're going to have the feeling of the environment — embracing the organic nature of the pieces. It is what I am hoping to achieve. Many times, music moved me while creating 'Flora.' I am also including a soundtrack of all things floral. The floral song selection is from artists like Tom Petty, all the way to the Talking Heads. I could not allow the space and time to be untouched by all things floral.”
It might be Fall but “Flora” is in full bloom at Sulfur Studios.