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Amanda Davies
A Brief Fiction
11 July to 1 August 2006

 

The first impression of Davies’ paintings could be described as an experience of lusciousness and sensuality, her exquisite sense of colour and her extraordinary surfaces creating an immediate and desirable accessibility. Yet beyond the richness of the visual experience, the viewer becomes engaged in a relationship with a deeply personal and at times, quirky content, as well as multiple layers of reference and meaning.

Originally from Western Australia, Davies graduated with honours from the University of Tasmania School of Art in 2004. Since then she has been steadily developing her unique style, which owes much to the great Western traditions of portrait, genre and still life painting. Her approach can remind us somewhat of the great Spanish painters of ‘Bodegones’, or humble interior pictures in that they are imbued with a sense of a specific, significant moment.  (Zurbaran, Vermeer and Chardin also shared this capacity to create a deep sense of significance in an apparently small and transitory moment).

Many of the smaller canvasses in this show focus on the individual, often children, self portraits or occasionally couples in beautifully realised compositions which at times echo compositional structures from the canon of western painting, (eg ‘Annunciation’), wherein the ‘negative’ space of the painting intensely amplifies the quiet drama unfolding within it.  They contain a sense of gravitas, of the key moment, isolated and sensitively realised. Small moments of apparent insignificance are raised to the level of timelessness through her astute formal and compositional sense. One senses that the child in these works is also the artist so in a sense these paintings are quite autobiographical. Notwithstanding this, the viewer is able to easily relate through the figure, to the situation depicted. A figure confronts something in quiet contemplation, or is absorbed in a private moment, stillness and the sense of having almost intruded on something deeply personal, as if the figure is engaged in an activity or a reverie, which causes them to be oblivious to our gaze. Such moments are so well realised that they seem timeless and stay with us after we have passed on. This is evident in some larger images as well, such as ‘Fugue state’ and ‘After the living room’.

In many works, a closer look often reveals many broader references such as in ‘Directional forces revisited’, in which a small child is engrossed in her scribbles on a little slate while seated amidst the remains of a Joseph Beuys lecture/installation of larger blackboards. The readings of this work go out from the intensely personal and private to incorporate the world of art and adult experience beyond.  They also reveal a quiet humour as they play with notions of art history and theory.

Many of the larger works in this show, (usually executed in the visually stunning but technically demanding method of reverse painting onto plastic which is then stretched over canvas); offer a more timeless aspect, more static and objective, a less specifically personal view of the world. These include set-piece formal portraiture and larger formal compositions, which rely on a more purely aesthetic, almost abstract set of compositional structures. The surface of these works is a strange dichotomy, at once painterly and at the same time a sleek and pure surface hovering between the viewer and the enamel paint itself, amplifying the richness of the colour and adding to the lusciousness of the whole experience. ‘The Sitting Room New Town’ and ‘Illiterate’ exemplify this approach. This is a more adult world and a character of distance and generality pervades these paintings, the exterior, as against the private, interior world

The unremittingly square format in all of these works is specifically chosen by the artist to stress that, whatever the nature of the content, they are first and foremost formal relationships and this precedes their readings as portraits, genre pictures or landscapes, which are in effect only a point of reference allowing another layer of content behind their purely painterly concerns. The relation between form and content swings backwards and forwards, the two constantly informing each other in a delicate set of balances.

Davies works from her own photographic resource and is concerned to explore pictorial space, and also the idea of a figure or figures in a place. The location of an ‘incident’ is critical, particularly in the smaller paintings of children or single figures. One senses that the placement of the figure is determined by the nature of the experience conveyed, the intensity of that moment and it is in these works that perhaps content actually determines aesthetic choices, unlike the larger works in which the reverse is the order usually adopted. The figure is removed from its place in the real (photographed) world and relocated in a picture space – a new place that focuses its emotional character and intensifies its significance. We, the viewers are thus able to connect directly with the figure and transpose ourselves into that place.

Like all good ‘fictions’ this one has its roots in the real and its location in a timeless place to which we can all relate.

This is an exciting and important body of work. It presents and artist developing a unique and strong artistic language, confident in the use of her medium and promising to become a painter of real significance in this country.

Seán Kelly
July 2006 Hobart

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> Artist's home page

> Past exhibitions

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