Philip Gray was born and raised in Vancouver and has been carving since 1999. He is a member of the Killer Whale clan, creating the majority of his works in his traditional Tsimshian style. Phil was exposed to his cultural traditions as a teenager, prompting him to join a First Nations dance group. Dancing became his first introduction to Tsimshian culture and this, along with his continued participation in ceremonial traditions, has strongly informed his work and career as an artist. As a young carver, his work possesses an unusual sophistication. Phil’s work is some of the most creative, innovative and paradoxically traditional art in the contemporary Northwest Coast art world.
Gray learned his carving skills from Gerry Sheena, and worked with artists Mike Dangeli, David Boxley, Henry Green, Lyle Campbell and Ian Reid. He also had the opportunity to study Advanced Design under renowned Haida artist, Robert Davidson. He has specialized in carving masks, panels, poles, sculptures and drums. Although his earlier work was made in more generalized Northern design principles, through study and practice he has developed a distinct Tsimshian style. At the opening for the New York Museum of Arts and Design exhibition “Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2,’’ Phil stated that his goal was to “bring Tsimshian art to another level.” While Gray carves for the commercial market, he also produces works for use by his own family. He distinguishes between the two in his art using more general versions of old stories for commercial work and more specific stories for work that will be used in dance or ceremony.
In 2003, Phil had three of his pieces donated to the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington and has been in a number of prominent exhibitions and publications. As well, Phil himself has donated many of his designs and carvings to First Nations communities and the Lac Kaien Tsimshian Dance Group, of which he is an active member. In 2012, one of his pieces was featured in the exhibition, "Shore, Forest, and Beyond" at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Most recently, Phil was awarded the BC Creative Achievement Award in Aboriginal Art from the Government of British Columbia in 2014.