|Nicolas C. Grey
~ James Farley
Nicolas C. Grey is a collector.
Of Asian cigarette packets, bank notes and medicine bottles.
Discarded photographs and Bollywood memorabilia.
Broken toys, lost things. Fragments of stories. Bits of lives.
And sooner or later all of these bits (and a few of the bobs) come through in the art. Visual mysteries
drawing the viewer in. Inviting them to speculate on the unknown connections that draw the disparate
elements together, to imagine the stories behind the pictures.
“I have no idea what my pictures mean to me
personally, or even what I am trying to say.”
Nic grew up in Brighton, England. His grandparents were Indian, and after living in Hyderabad, South India
for a few years he relocated to Cambodia where he now lives and works. He is currently represented by Dana
Langlois of JGallery, Phnom Penh.
He works in a range of media collage, photography, comic art and mixed media wall sculpture. But, his
signature style remains pen and ink drawings the intricacy and visual wealth of which never fail to
Nic’s engagement with the lives and cultures of South and South East Asia during the past decade has
introduced an increasingly ornamental and decorative element to his drawings. Recurring motifs of birds and
monkeys, patterned fabrics and oriental carpets are used to create a visual pallette of psychedelic complexity
Nicolas was born in London in 1968, and having left
both school and home at 16 is a self taught artist.
Working under the name Dead Nic during the
nineties he was involved in the underground comix
scene, producing, togther with Benjamin Heath, the
now legendary Watermelon comic.
Nic also produced stand-alone pieces during this time
which were shown via the London agency du jour
However fame and fortune remained elusive and Nic spent much of the decade either in prison, under
psychiatric supervision or living on the streets. He continued to produce art throughout this period, and the
work from this time chronicles the darker side of life in East London.
An interest in the aesthetics of language scripts is a thread that can be traced back to his comic art
background, and much of Nic’s current work features text written in Hindi, Khmer, Vietnamese and Tibetan,
together with his own rather esoteric ideoscripts and the mathmatical formulae of quantum physics.
Nic has recently produced portraits for the British band Faithless and the United Nations Legal Affairs
Team at the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, as well as completing a series of portraits of contemporary
Cambodian artists and performers.
Nic collects old Indian photographs and this influence can be seen in the formal positioning of his subjects,
the use of props and the overall framing and texture of the portraits.
Nic is drawn to the idea of social and human failure, and creates art featuring the world’s marginalized and
His 2010 comic Joe Odd is based on a story found in a psychiatric hospital and written by an unknown
patient. His hugely popular Light Box installations use found objects, text, photographs and light to create
wall-shrines devoted to street dwellers in Calcutta.
Devotion, ritual and religion are abiding interests, and Nic’s work frequently references the ideas and
aesthetics of Buddhism and Hinduism. Viewers in South East Asia have particularly identified with the sense
of the supernatural, or Ghost World, found in many of his drawings.
Recent showings of his work have been marked by a palpable sense of pleasure and wonder at these strangely
imagined and beautifully crafted works.
A gallery experience that allows the viewer to be intellectually engaged, whilst appreciating the technical
mastery and enjoying the sensual pleasure of the work has proved enormously popular with Cambodian
audiences, and recent shows have sold out.
“If I could express myself verbally,
then I wouldn’t need to draw the pictures.”
Art as rich as Nicolas C. Grey’s is done no favours by written pieces such as this.
You have to see it.
~ James Farley
July 2010, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Nicolas is
Currently writing a graphic novel called " This Dog Baking"" with James Farley.
This Dog Barking (intro)
The iconoclast and ‘anti-guru’ UG Krishnamurti’s (1918 ??" 2007) only advice was that people should throw away their crutches and free themselves from the stranglehold of cultural conditioning and the tyranny of thought.
This Dog Barking ,The Strange Story of UG Krishnaumrti, chronicles the bizarre history of The Cosmic Naxalite; from his troubled childhood with the Theosophists and discipleship's and subsequent disillusion with many of the leading spiritual teachers of the twentieth century, to his catastrophic personal life and years of homelessness and destitution in London and Paris.
In 1967 UG underwent his ‘Calamity’ " a series of biological mutations which left him in the ‘natural state’ " functioning without the interference of thought.
With no fixed address, no followers and no organization UG spent the next 30 years traveling the world and giving his uncompromising message that ‘mind is a myth’ and the human condition should be demystified and de-psychologized and viewed in purely physiological terms.
This Dog Barking (synopsis)
Beginning with his unconventional upbringing by the Theosophists in Madras, This Dog Barking tells the turbulent life-story of one of the most radical and unrecognized philosophers of the twentieth century.
Following the death of his mother from childbirth complications UG Krishnamurti spent his early life in the company of many of the period’s most influential gurus and spiritual masters. But his years with The Theosophists, Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharishi and J Krishnamurti only served to convince him that the entire spiritual tradition was founded on dishonesty and delusion.
Similarly unimpressed by the insights offered by western philosophy and psychology, which he studied at Madras University, he opted for family life and married Kusuma Kumari. A decision he regretted the day after the wedding.
In 1955 UG and Kusuma, together with their children left for a new life in America, where UG built up a successful career on the spiritual lecture circuit. However, he soon tired of this and in 1959 informed his wife that their marriage was over. A distraught Kusuma returned to India with the children,. Where she died a few years later following a period of mental illness.
UG meanwhile began a five year period of aimless wandering around Europe, supporting himself by giving tarot readings and Indian cookery lessons and living almost entirely on cheese.
He finally came to the end of the line in Geneva in 1965. With nowhere else to go, he presented himself as destitute to the Indian Consulate, where he and the 63 year old Embassy translator, Valentine De Kerven, struck up a friendship. Valentine gave up her job in order to support UG, and this unusual relationship was to continue until Valentine's death in 2005
In 1967 UG underwent his ‘calamity’ - a series of biological changes which left him in the ‘natural state’ functioning without the unnecessary interference of thought.
For the next 30 years UG and Valentine traveled the world, staying with friends in America, India and Europe. Despite having no fixed address or any organization a steady stream of the curious, confused and bored would seek UG out in order to hear his uncompromising message that ‘mind is a myth’ and the human condition should be demystified and de-psychologized and viewed in purely physiological terms.
As well as telling the life-story of UG, including, for the first time, details of his involvement with the Bollywood starlet Parveen Babi, This Dog Barking presents all of the key concepts in his anti-philosophy, exploring his ideas on the destructive nature of thought, the fallacy of cause and effect and the fundamental role of cultural and social conditioning in what we call our identity.
Nicolas C Grey’s haunting and beautifully detailed drawings capture both the personalities and atmosphere of UG’s life and times, and vividly bring to life his uncompromising, contrary and unbalancing conversational style.
Discomforting, irreverent, intimate and nihilistic, UG’s freewheeling and radical non-teaching undermines the very foundations of human thought, freeing the hearer from illusory goals and ‘the tyranny of knowledge, beauty, goodness, truth and God’.