Branding himself as a “Dr of electrical paintings and internationally recognised monobrow artist,” Dr Julian Gravy creates illustrative works that open windows onto the strange world of his imagination, populated by violent Ronald McDonalds, clothed ponies and cunning cats.
Speaking of how his style developed, Dr Julian tells us: “I had drawn frequently since childhood. I used to redraw some of the books I would read, and illustrate them in my own way. Then I would draw films that I wasn’t allowed to watch. It felt like an inclusion in something I was locked outside of. I guess that’s still why I translate my life experience into an obfuscated diary. It’s a kind of inclusion in the world that I see through television and films.”
Dr Julian’s compositions are intriguing – frames of action that function like small glimpses of larger narrative sequences, or else like movie stills taken from action films, mashed together with sitcoms, kids cartoons and hallucinatory dreams. In his words: “I am agoraphobic and I push my limited interaction with the world through a kaleidoscope of fictional, cinematically influenced fantasy.”
Towards the relatively more normal side, Dr Julian’s paintings, rendered primarily in gouache, depict angry men with huge, tooth-filled mouths driving taxis or bicycling off cliff edges, and women sitting in cardboard boxes or shaving their legs. Towards the other end – the weirder end – Ronald McDonald lies flat on the roof of a drugstore aiming a gun, a miniature Ronald carries a box on which is written “RON’S SHIT”, a hairy, scantily clad cupid peers into a job centre, horses wear jeans, floral button-down shirts, fishnet tights and high heels, and disgruntled cats with monobrows drive tanks, or else sit sullenly with protest placards that demand “TUNA NOW”, “LOOK AT MY ASS”, and “SMELL MY BREATH”.
Certain characters, such as Ronald, the cats and the horses, tend to crop up over and over again in Dr Julian’s images, as if his brain were playing episodes of the same TV show on a permanent loop. He says: “Sometimes I can pour everything into a single painting but at other times I prefer to explore more lengthy narrative and sub-narrative material. It’s exciting to create a protagonist subject and figure out the things that they or I would do. That understanding of my own nature and the exploration of the subjects’ equivalents is engrossing.”
Dr Julian finds inspiration for his work and methods in Faye Moorhouse’s naive illustrative style, and in the expressive figures of painters like Picasso and Modigliani, as well as character illustrators such as Quentin Blake and Tove Jansson. For him, discipline is key to exploring and manifesting his kaleidoscopic fantasies. He says: “I like to stick to routine. Even when I don’t want to paint I will do so. It provides a framework to work through stuff – in the end whether it ends up as something successful or not becomes somewhat irrelevant.”
Having already begun to translate his scenes and characters into 3D ceramic models, Dr Julian plans to expand his practice into different forms and mediums. He tells us: “I want to explore understated three-dimensional work more – to paint the decoration onto objects as well as creating more of the figurines I have already worked on.” Beyond the paintings, Dr Julian’s repertoire also includes self-published zines, pin-badges, t-shirts and ornaments, all existing within the same, warped, cinematic realm.