When I first saw Laith McGregor’s Dawn on Ceningan Island, Indonesia, July 2014, it was reclining against one of the tables in the 30upstairs office. The beautiful raw timber frame begs to be touched, and the work itself contains a labyrinth of inked blue text surrounding a larger than life bearded face. With the work at eye level it was easy to pull out little quips and humorous strings of words, such as ‘GROUNDEDED,’ and ‘flared nostrils.’ As a work I wanted to look at it, and as a collection of thoughts, lists, and words, I wanted to spend time up close reading it.
Currently it’s hanging up on the wall, having been shifted, and now the floating head seems to be looming above me. It’s harder to read, and now as I look upwards I feel that the scale of the face asks for some kind of reverence, yet it sort of reminds me of the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland mixed with God and Father Christmas. A nearly forgotten memory of sitting in church as a child pops into my head, one of being told to be respectful towards bearded old men, and that keeps me from laughing too much despite the humorous running commentary of text that keeps the head afloat.
The work was exhibited in June at The Young gallery after McGregor undertook a rare one-month artist in residence at the gallery itself with his wife and children. With several of the rooms being converted to living and bedroom spaces, McGregor worked on his show PULAU as well as dedicating his time to a workshop involving 40 Wellington children and young adults. Mal jumped at the chance to add Dawn on Ceningan Island, Indonesia to his collection, which is a prime example of the artist’s cleverness with biros, faces, and scale.
Well known for his drawing practice, McGregor graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victoria College of Art in 2007, and has exhibited widely throughout Australia and further abroad as well as being the recipient of numerous awards and residencies. His work is held in public and private collections all over the world.