Gigi Gray’s latest offering illustrates the highly coveted canned goods from lockdown

When Gigi was growing up, her mother used to take her to art classes from the time that she could hold a paint brush. She also had the chance to observe a group of older artist friends, watching their way of life and creating, “albeit from an entirely different generation, of which I still romanticise.” The city of New York was an undeniable influence too, which naturally evolved into a subject matter she would illustrate in her years to come. Further influences arose from her studies in illustration at Parsons, combined with an affection for film and photography from the 1950s and 70s – citing filmmakers like John Cassavetes, Chantal Ackerman, Pedro Almodovar, Jacques Tati, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol to name a few. Not to mention photographers such as Garry Winogrand, Gordon Parks, Helen Levitt and Harry Gruyeart.
As for Gigi’s most recent pieces, she points us in the direction of a food advertisement series she made in response to the panic buying frenzy that swept the globe during the lockdowns. “I was surprised to see canned foods and other non-perishables becoming coveted items worth fighting over in grocery aisles,” she recalls, collecting vintage food advertisements simultaneously and realising many similarities. “This lead to a rabbit hole of researching all the ingredients in canned foods, condiments and other long standing pantry items – all of which, unsurprisingly, were riddled with toxic ingredients.” The idealism of an organic way of life was tossed out the window during the pandemic, despite the cry for health and boost in immunity. As such, a series on the topic of reimagining these for adverts started to form, whereby Gigi has switched the logos with the food’s leading toxic ingredient. “I suppose it’s a lighthearted, humorous approach to make an informative series.”
This work, alongside her detailed observations of people, posters and city streets affirms the illustrator as a type of voyeur. She speaks of this tendency as a result of being raised in a building in NYC, peering out of the windows at other buildings – “which has left an indelible impression on me,” she says. “I suppose much of my work, capturing people frozen in a moment, is meant to convey a feeling of connection and yet also isolation.” She has a knack for turning her subjects into familiar strangers, the people that you pass everyday as you go about your daily antics. It’s a craft, a skill no less, to be able to capture these moments so abruptly. With plans to continue illustrating as well as transferring her art into other mediums, like album covers, we can’t wait for Gigi’s next chapter.