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Half of surrealist art duo dies in the ultimate ‘journey beyond the machine’

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Nick Frost and partner Gabrielle Gazal have been left reeling after the death of friend and artistic collaborator, Nick Kealey, days before the opening of their first exhibition.

Kate Green

Nick Frost and partner Gabrielle Gazal have been left reeling after the death of friend and artistic collaborator, Nick Kealey, days before the opening of their first exhibition.

The sudden death  artist Nick Kealey has left his artistic partner and friends reeling, but their planned surrealist art exhibition will still open this weekend.

Kealey and Nick Frost spent five years working together,    culminating in Mouths of Illusion.

Frost’s partner Gabrielle Gazal said only weeks ago Kealey had told her, “The ultimate artistic act would be to leave in front of an audience”.

“And that’s what he did,” she said.

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Nick Frost stands by his friend Nick Kealey's image as part of the exhibition, 'Mouths of Illusion', which opens this weekend.

Kate Green

Nick Frost stands by his friend Nick Kealey’s image as part of the exhibition, ‘Mouths of Illusion’, which opens this weekend.

Kealey, an American now calling Wellington home, fell sick last week in Paekakariki after a brain seizure, Frost said.

He was taken by helicopter to Wellington Hospital,  but died the following week.

His family flew out from Seattle to be with him and his funeral was held on Wednesday.

“He was fit, but he had a brain injury 20 years ago which caused epilepsy,” Frost said.

Born in Wellington but now based in Australia, Frost is a musician, drama scholar, and author.

He said Kealey was full of energy, a risk taker, and an adrenaline junkie. They met seven years ago through a mutual friend. 

​Kealey couldn’t afford to fund his art himself, Frost said, but when they realised their visions were aligned, Frost offered to fund and collaborate on his art.

“The moment we met we were raving straight away,” Frost said.

“It’s like he [Frost] lost his other half,” Gazal said.

Nick Frost stands among figures of the surrealist exhibit, which makes comment on

Kate Green

Nick Frost stands among figures of the surrealist exhibit, which makes comment on

The men’s work drew on mantras, repeated images, and symbolism to explain the fruitlessness of the wheel of life, and the allure of going “beyond the machine”.

Frost had his own health scare 20 years ago. A mental breakdown put him in hospital for three months, paralysed, staring at walls.

This experience had changed his outlook on death, and made dealing with this loss easier, he said.

“To transcend those experiences, that’s going beyond the machine,” Gazal said.

Despite the tragedy, Frost and Gazal said they owed it to Kealey to carry on with the exhibition, which would run until March 15.

The programme was finalised four  weeks ago, and they were glad Kealey had seen the finished vision before he died.

“Our friends said it wouldn’t be appropriate to cancel,” Frost said. “Nick would have wanted them to carry on.”

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