HUGH DAVIES I PAINTINGS
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Hugh Davies Interview with Dragica Carlin - Page 3

DC: Looking at the painting in detail, the set up is quite theatrical, almost as a scene from a 1950s film….

HD:
I think that is right; the image has been assembled rather than composed. The theatricality probably comes from my fascination with film and theatre sets and, as I said before, Veronese and the Venetians, whose paintings seem sexier than the cooler and more mathematical Florentines. Venice seemed warm and fleshy, its nearly always evening, there is thunder in the blood-red sky and ,like Vivaldi’s music, it combines elegance and menace. In fact it is almost the opposite of what many of my generations were interested in when we graduated. As I said, most of us had been making minimal abstraction.

DC: Have any writers influenced your work?

HD. Yes, but only indirectly. At college I benefited enormously from Cyril Reason for whom painting was an aesthetic matter not really a philosophical one. Or, to put it a different way, he didn’t distinguish between the two as he judged philosophical ideas aesthetically rather than logically. He made me think about painting in a way that is still very important to me. Borge’s work, especially the non-fiction, and Kant’s ideas about the inter-relatedness of things, have also had a strong influence on me. Both have made me re-think painting in relation to history. Its interesting that younger painters are looking again at artists like Bocklin, Knopf, Max Klinger, image-makers who have been neglected for far too long. A lot of the recent dogma has gone and sensibility is getting back to centre stage. I never thought that I would be interested in 19th century trompe d’oiel painting but I have been looking at it recently. Although it is the absolute antithesis of late abstraction, it shares a similar approach to the picture-plane, shallow space and so on. It has reduced the importance of the figure in my work although it still lurks under the surface. And, as you pointed out, the new work has a lot in common with the work I was making in the seventies.

DC: So what is your relationship with time in painting??

HD. Time always it insinuates itself into the work. Passing time, history, the time of day or a suggestion of the momentary or eternal. Obviously paintings are always rooted in their period. Time animates the static image and is the means by which each painting relates to all others. To paraphrase Kant, relational terms are part of the terms they relate. I was once asked to be photographed for a poster aimed at encouraging students to do research, so I thought I would try to do this visually, just a photograph of two books. One was open at a reproduction of ‘A Thousand Years’ by Damian Hirst, which I think is a really terrific piece, probably the best thing he has done so far, and the other one showed Rembrandt’s ”Flayed Ox”. They are separated by centuries but both are “different intonations of the same metaphor” as Borges puts it.

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