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Hugh Davies Interview with Dragica Carlin - Page 1

DC: In your work there seems to be a dilemma between building the image and escaping from it.

HD: Yes, the situation has been as important to me as the figures and both were generally rather ambiguous. I have always been interested in artists who deal with ambiguity. I acted once in Ionesco’s play, “The Chairs” and it had a big effect on me, as did Becket and Genet and Bunuel’s films. The undercurrent of unease, the mixture of illogicality and ordinariness and, crucially, their reluctance to be clear about time and place struck a note with me.

DC: There was certainly a lot of ambiguity in your earlier work. They are sculptural, sometimes monumental, but also elusive in the way you position images, use time, colour and light.

HD: I don’t make things ambiguous, they are ambiguous. There are no certainties. Take the figure, you look at the back and the shapes seem to change and shift continuously. The figure breathes, the external shape expands and contracts, its all affected by light, the viewer’s shifting position, monocular and binocular vision, boredom and excitement and so on. So one has the problem of finding a static two-dimensional equivalent for a changing set of three-dimensional facts. The whole enterprise is fraught with uncertainty, and thats before you introduce atmosphere, distance, time and even mortality. This has always been the case.

If you take an image like “Torso”, which I started in 1999, and worked on for a couple of weeks and then returned to about five years later, there are a number of contradictions. The vase is painted as a flat shape but the outline ensures that it suggests volume whereas the figure has been painted with a good deal of form, shadows and fleshy volume, even underneath its surface, so the physicality of the figure plays off against the vase. The central figure/object is placed in a deliberately ambiguous space , it is lit theatrically or cinematically but not naturalistically. Its not about deliberately obscuring something: its the result of trying to paint what it is like to see and experience something without feeling that you have to clean it up.

DC: You play a lot with the elements of the traditional. The way you combine images and place the figures within the painting in an almost abstract set up makes the space very evocative. Could you comment on this?

HD: I am trying to be as suggestive as I can with the minimal means. The space provides the sense of internal scale, the distance between the observer and the principal subject matter and also conditions the variability of focus. Most things in my painting are just out of conversational reach and physical reach. This is just as true for the current work .This slightly awkward distance interests me a lot. It is something I very much like in Giacometti’s portraits, particularly of his brother . That space produces a slightly disturbing relationship which I find dramatically interesting.
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