British Artist Turns Inner World Outside in Exhibition

In Nicolas Grey’s striking installation “Horror Vacui: The Interior World” at Java Cafe, art seems to detach itself from the wall and seep into the physical world. His complex pen-and-ink drawings engulf a host of domestic objects: a bowl, a spoon, a table, a briefcase.

Beside a few framed images, the exhibition consists of a wall entirely covered with Mr. Grey’s illustrations with, set against it, a table with a small television set, a glass, a notebook and other objects covered with his signature black-and-white illustrations.

Artist Nicolas Grey's installation "Horror Vacui: The Interior World" showing at Phnom Penh's Java Cafe. (Siv Channa)
Artist Nicolas Grey’s installation “Horror Vacui: The Interior World” showing at Phnom Penh’s Java Cafe. (Siv Channa)

The idea for the exhibition began with the concept of wallpaper, Mr. Grey said. “I’m not really sure…what ended up happening. It’s just what came out. I stood there and drew…. I couldn’t stop,” he said.

During about four months of full-time work during which Mr. Grey created detailed scenes for 10 to 14 hours a day, he conceived of images that could be reproduced on objects, the 45-year-old artist said.

“The idea of the show was that all these images, this internal world, get externalized onto everything,” Mr. Grey explained.

“The outside world disappears and gets replaced by the inner world.”

There was, however, one more aspect to his drawing routine that, he admits, verged on the compulsive.

“This drawing process was in itself a way of keeping the world at bay,” he said, referring to the exhibition’s title “Horror Vacui,” which means “fear of the empty.” In art, it refers to the concept of leaving no empty space in a painting or drawing, filling in all gaps with tiny details.

Mr. Grey, who worked as an illustrator of graphic novels in London, spent several years in India prior to moving to Cambodia in 2007. He is now based in Battambang City.

His exhibition at Java Cafe runs through May 18.

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