Moving on to an adjoining gallery one is hit by a captivating range of raucously colored and amusingly drawn paintings by Leo Ray (b. Vilnius, 1950), based on a recurring group of cartoon-like actors, mostly human and feline with the occasional bird, horse and dog tagging along. Ray pulls out all the spectral stops by combining shapes, lines, dots and dashes in unadulterated violets with Kelly green, a bright yolk with flaming magenta and orange backgrounds with electric blue rectangles.
More than being an uninhibited colorist, Ray is an anecdotal painter. Each traditional canvas or larger work assembled from several different size rectangles into a domino-like composition, relates to the human condition as described in fantastic episodes. Domestic encounters, grotesque dreams and perverted events are expressed in an illustrative poster-style using heavy black contours for figures and objects alike. His Everyman is like a clown playing the fool but eternally searching for a deeper meaning to his life. And while digging, Ray’s lead character gets involved in the most bizarre predicaments one could imagine. Titles such as “The Right Way of Listening to Bird’s Songs”, “Soap Bubble Hunter”, “The Riddle of the Horse Who Wanted to Cross the Bridge” and “Transparent Philosophical Cat” provide enough fodder for the surreal cannon to blow one’s mind.
The most interesting works in the exhibition are the composite pictures in which Ray meshes art historical styles with his own brand of comic drawing. Painted in 2006, each work focuses on a classically rendered female nude in sepia wash grisaille, and is supported by vignettes of explosive abstract expressionist brush marks, flighty calligraphic illustrations and bits and smaller units from his inventive menagerie. These particular works are less colourful than others in the show but are filled with the most harmonious range of disparate elements and textures. Brush and palette knife, transparencies, alla prima, realism and caricature intertwine in a most alluring manner.
Altough Ray’s images are fresh and often provocative, their free-wheeling placement on flat planes with no perspective can be associated with the inverted proportions of child’s imagination. But his art is much more sophisticated, a clever mixture of Klee, Appel, Rouault and the French poster designer Sauvignac. And what with his poking fun at Velazquez in Artists and Model, 2005, and a combined celebration of Modigliani and Matisse in Reclining Red Nude, 2006, one can add a satirical pinch of irony to Ray’s upfront, scrumptious art.
Jerusalem Post, 2006