Studied on a Foundation course in Wallasey (the college is now a housing estate, which really makes it feel relegated to ancient history), and then a Fine Art degree in Stoke-on-Trent (Staffordshire Uni), followed ten years later by an M.A Illustration: Authorial Practice at Falmouth College of Arts. His tutors included Joe Mcgilivray, Terry Shave, Stephen Boyd, Steve Braund, amongst others, plus meetings with David Shrigley, Ben Katchor, Andrjez Klimowski.
Two of the main memories from Stoke are of playing guitar in the students union bar and spending a lot of time in ‘The Roaches’ – craggy hills at the start of the Peak District, half an hour/an hours bus journey away. This area strengthened his interest in landscape and he gravitated towards a kind of work that was less in the traditional European painterly school of art and more in the outdoor pursuits side of things via what you could call ‘Land Art’.
At Falmouth the work shifted dramatically towards carefully planned-out, small, mostly black and white drawings that had an emphasis on narrative and of combining the ordinary everyday with the absurd. Over more recent times these fairly disparate concerns/interests have combined together in various ways.
Having said this, the drawings and sequences exist in a parallel world to the painting, and I still enjoy that as a separate and connected thing in itself. This ‘world’ I have called Blanking Out
Between 1997 and 2002 he got into mural painting through a desire to work on a larger scale and on different surfaces. This continued around 2007/08, though it had lessened greatly by then as he was focussing again on a self-directed, studio, painting/drawing practice.
Although there have been several groups of work that have developed over the years there are a few things that are central and link the work together. One of these is an interplay between bizarre elements, or rather an interplay between reality and fiction. Drawing is also something that underpins it all, and the meaning and strength of certain, simple marks and gestures.
Increasingly, though, the work is created using a more self-assured reliance on intuition. The imagery arrives often in a collage-like way, and the end result seems to evolve as a sort of metamorphosis or quite often as in a dream.
Fragments of simple narratives, at times suggestive of universal, mythical imagery and energies, vie for attention and their own space within environments that have a yearning towards arcadia and the sublime, though are in actual fact mostly very mundane – perhaps described sometimes as ‘wastelands’.
Below is his statement that encapsulates the core of his larger, landscape-based paintings over the last two years, drawing partly from elements that were apparent from the early ’90’s. It was put together towards the end of his year-long residency at Metal Culture, Edge Hill Station, Liverpool (2014 – 2015)
Rob D Davies
Artists’ Statement, Sept 2015
Rob D Davies is an artist who is pulled between aspects of nostalgia and the sublime. The subject he consistently returns to in his work is the landscape. His paintings, using a mixture of watercolour, oil paint, spray-paint and household gloss, depict the landscape as both fragmented and also in a state of becoming alive. This semi-imaginary landscape is a reflection of the mind, and the tendency for fantasies to interrupt the ordinary world. The work is partly developed from sketches and photographs made during periods spent in the outdoors, observing spaces and environments.
He is interested in how psychological responses to spaces and environnements could be similar to the visions of shaman who would talk of disks of lights after spending long periods in wild and remote places. Similarly, Pagans believed that specific spirits or Gods dwelt in natural locations, such as by a river, a wood or group of rocks. Rob is depicting an unseen energy that aims to heighten the scene into a state of hyper-reality. From this, fragments of Hollywood, or such-like, pop open like a bubble within the hills of the English landscape.
The choosing of ‘romantic’ landscapes, as well as very ordinary pockets of wasteland, has been an important aspect of the work. The desire for the idyllic landscape or utopian world where we are at one with nature is a contrast to the haunting death and chaotic order of reality. The modern English countryside is the perfect ‘anchor’ or ‘ground’ for this, with its varied pockets of semi-industrial and semi-wild views.
Rob takes some inspiration from the glimpsed views of the countryside while travelling on amotorway, when the eye happens to see beyond the metal barrier into a gorge or piece of idyllic, primeval wilderness. The ground has very traditional connotations with it having been painted in watercolour, and the subsequent use of oils is almost like an aberration painted over the top. In ‘Off The Tracks’ the scene of the railway sidings is interrupted in a somewhat brutal and unexpected way by a road, a primordial river or simply an intervening shape that impolitely makes an appearance.
The interventions represent psychological phenomena – hallucinations, daydreams – or just ignorance towards conventions. There is an attraction towards the traditional, as well as a tiredness with the polite conventions of the pastoral scene. They are a brash gesture against the familiar language of watercolour (which is itself morphing and going askew here). They are unapologetic contaminants and peculiar machinations within a reservedly polite and respectable world.
These paintings have so far been exhibited as unframed – suspended using clips and wire, or via the use of magnets. In this way, they were displayed in their ‘raw form’, actually drawing attention to the paper itself. The paper edges were seen with their ‘imperfections’ of shape and the work existed in this unapolagetic form, with a sense of the thing as an isolated work of art suspende in its own space.
However, it is probable that they will be exhibited as framed at some point in the near future. If you are interested in discussing the sale of a large-scale painting shown here you can get in touch via the contact page. As an approximation, to purchase the work framed, it will be an addition of around £300 to the price of the work itself.