With a sense of balance and fluidity imbued into every piece of work he creates, Phil Gray has gone on to be known as a designer of extraordinary works in wood, metal, and paper. Belonging to the Killerwhale Clan and working in the Tsimshian style, there is an otherworldly quality to Phil’s art that is immediately apparent in his masterful masks, panels and doors, poles, and sculptures.
The last decade has seen a steady rise in recognition of Phil’s work, beginning in 2003 when three of his pieces were donated to the Burke Museum in Seattle. In 2005, Phil was featured in the renowned Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design in New York, followed by the a lucrative commission of sculptural works for Sonora Resort on Sonora Island, BC in 2007.
Custom Carved Panels by Phil Gray
Custom Carved Panels, 2014, Red Cedar, (4) 2’ x 9’, Private Collection, Europe
That year proved to be an important one in Phil’s career as it also marked the completion of the Northwest Coast Jewelry Arts Program at the Native Education College in Vancouver, under the supervision of Kwakwaka’wakw/Haida artist Dan Wallace. Phil was also included in two major exhibitions dedicated to exploring innovative and experimental works from the Northwest Coast, with the second, Continuum: Vision and Creativity on the Northwest Coast at Vancouver’s Bill Reid Gallery, highlighting 23 established Aboriginal artists from British Columbia, Washington State and Alaska.
Working with clients and artists to create unique, personalized pieces is one of our strengths at Fazakas Gallery. We work in a multitude of scales, budgets, and mediums. If you’re thinking about commissioning a piece for your home, office or garden, we are happy to help. A fine example is Phil Gray’s recently completed panel commission. We started with the physical parameters, then worked on the theme and began sketches, and then the wood chips began to fly.
The panels needed to wrap around a four sided support beam in the heart of the room. Gray chose a theme from the ancient tale, How Am’ala Acquires Super Natural Powers, which could separate quite nicely into four chapters.
How Phil describes his design:
“The first panel is the beginning of the story. Two human faces are depicted, the bottom representing Am’ala and the top depicting the shaman. The second panel is first challenge our hero Am’ala, grappling with a Bear. The third is Am’ala fighting a mountain. In this panel, the mountain design covers much more of the panel than Am’ala, giving the impression of the enormity of the mountain compared to the hero. The last panel shows the great chief holding up the world with a beam on his chest. On the left and right are his slaves and a duck, representing his servant rubbing duck oil on his back to strengthen him as he holds up the world. I thought it would be cool, given what the panels would be covering a pillar”.
The story is of Am’ala Acquires Super Natural Power. You can read the story as recorded in “The Thirty First Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1909-1910 (1916).
You can read it at the link here: https://archive.org/details/thirtyfirstannua1910smit