‘(The larger works demonstrate) a refreshing talent and immediacy…
a strange, edgy contrast between Turner and popular culture’
Terry Duffy, writing for Art In Liverpool
About the work
Drawings can seem to have more importance than paintings. There is a calm, focussed quality about them that is contrary to the at times frenetic, energised nature of my paintings. Within the latter, imagery emerges out of a kind of primordial chaos, and at times this can perhaps be unhelpful to communicate clearly – especially with my hoarding tendency. Perhaps the primitive and humble aspect of drawing appeals to me a great deal because it contrasts with the ‘energised’ aspect of human activity around this particular ‘epoch’, with technology no doubt in existence that is probably so advanced (suggesting ‘better’, though this is open to debate) that it is still unknown to most people.
I see my work developing a little bit like the universe is said to be developing: there seems to be an outward movement in all directions, with the subtle aspects becoming more subtle and the bolder or sometimes garish aspects becoming more brazen, the extremes co-existing together for now. Some of the work does, however, exist separately to others – fragmented frames of narrative sequences are a separate area of enquiry to large, loose paintings. The sequences concisely illustrate the mental jump from one extreme to another and serve as a reminder to how the mind can easily split off like the branches of a tree.
Within both the painting and drawing is an interplay between reality and fiction and an inquiry into what those two things can mean. There is also a collision between extremes and contradictions – such as combining humour with the sublime – which aren’t really supposed to exist together though some humour can create interesting tensions within an image. Fragments of simple narratives and, 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’.
About the artist
Studied on a Foundation course in Wallasey, 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. My 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’ (see ‘Land Art’). This area strengthened my interest in landscape and I 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. 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. It’s funny how the wildness of the Cornish landscape was denied or ignored and there was a certain feeling of purposely repressing energy or expression during the endeavour to create something extremely succinct, focussed as I was on ‘tight’, colourless drawings.
Other interests include Aikido, and playing guitar.
Below is a statement that encapsulates the core of my 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 by myself and Jenny Porter of the Metal team, towards the end of my 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.