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Hugh Davies Interview with Dragica Carlin - Page 2

DC: So, the space exists in its own right even without images. In your work, the space comes out of the process?

HD: It's very much part of the painting because it contributes to the psychological atmosphere. I keep changing the relationships between the figures, objects and space until the image sort of settles into itself. It is simplified and more extreme in the newer work. I still often change the size and shape of the support during the painting.

DC: I have the impression that you use your images to help you express something else in the painting.

DC: Yes, that is true, although I am not an expressionist. Even in the current work the content is found in and through the painting. It does not exist prior to it. There are two aspects of this that seem a bit contradictory. Sometimes I come across things that I think would be interesting or challenging to paint and I will make the painting simply out of that. Its a very speculative process in which the finished painting often looks totally different from the initial idea or image.

For instance, this painting ‘Fear and trembling’, 1985, started as one 96 x 48 painting, but ended up as three panels so it is now eight feet by twelve. I began the right panel as a painting by itself. It includes a figure derived partly from Rodin, a mirror, a self-portrait made directly from the mirror and a table. The panel on the left was a different painting altogether and contained a self-portrait which I had painted about ten years before, a lion, a damaged sculpture of a female torso loosely based on the central figure in Rubens’ “Three Graces” and a stone wall.

At some point I brought the two panels together although the left panel was initially on the right. The square format didn’t work, the lion looked like an overweight tabby cat and the two self-portraits were too closely aligned. About then I had been reading Fitzgerald’s “Omar Khayyam” and liked the poem’s mood of melancholy and damaged grandeur. I think some of that seeped in. I then added the third panel with a larger central figure, a sort of homage to Venice, (I had been completely knocked out by the Genius of Venice show at the RA) and a kind of invented menagerie in the foreground. The lion was replaced by a figure diving into a swimming pool in order to introduce something instantaneous and human in contrast to the silence and stillness of the image, to put some present into the past. The diver was too suburban so the swimming pool went and the figure was made to hang by one foot from a rope attached to a pulley as if being raised or possibly lowered which I think achieved the same objective.

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