Artist Biography - Alan Davie
Alan Davie was born on September 28, 1920 in Grangemouth, Scotland, he was educated at the Edinburgh College of Art and is one of Britain's most internationally acclaimed artists and is Scotland's most important artist of the twentieth century. He was the first British painter - and perhaps the first of all European artists - to realise the vitality and significance of American... Abstract Expressionism.
Throughout his life Alan Davie obsessively drew and painted, producing paintings of startling originality, vitality and daring. Combining imagery derived from different world cultures with a love of music and language, Alan Davie's paintings are a complex yet joyous celebration of creativity that combine the expressive freedom of abstraction with a wealth of signs, symbols and words.
During the Second World War, Davie's creativity extended into music as he played the tenor saxophone and travelled widely with the Tommy Sampson Orchestra. He travelled widely, leading him to become influenced by painters of the period being shown in Venice, such as Paul Klee and Joan Miro, as well as the extended variety of cultural symbols. he declared that spiritual spontaneity is superior to planning ahead, leading him to attempted to paint as automatically as possible in order to unless the unconscious mind.
Having seen the Jackson Pollock paintings from Peggy Guggenheim’s collection in Venice in 1948, Alan Davie was inspired to begin painting on a much larger scale, in an improvisatory way, with a vigorous, aggressive handling of paint. In 1950 Alan Davie abandoned the human body as a measuring stick - from now on, the latter, when it appeared, was in such a divided state that it was hardly identifiable - assuming an intrinsic dimension, a step away from reality. His compositions, based on the authority of the features, similar to those of Paul Klee enabled the painting to truly occupy the entirety of the plane. Strongly inspired by Zen philosophies, his paintings consist of responsive and spontaneous primitive compositions painted with obsessive, conglomerate mark-making to form images that slip in between abstraction and representation.
Alan Davie explored a diverse range of activities: from 1949 to 1953 he earned his living by making jewellery and in 1947 he worked as a jazz musician, an activity he has continued in later life. Alan Davie also wrote poetry during the early 1940s.
Alan Davie added to a concentration of colour - already a remarkable feature in Jackson Pollock’s work before 1945 - the possibility of recognizing shapes, suggestions of movement and primitive, magical rituals. Sharing similarities with Pollock, the artist worked by laying his canvas on the floor and standing above the piece, acting out onto it with paint. However, he suggested that his paintings still retained symbolic features to them and therefore were not entirely abstract.
In the later 50s and 60s, the artists brushwork became more controlled, making his paintings more legible. Mysterious symbols began to appear from a variety of sources such as American Indian pottery, maps, ancient rock-carvings and Aboriginal art.
As early as 1958 Alan Davie emphasised the importance in his work of intuition as expressed in the form of enigmatic signs. During the 1960s, both in paintings and in coloured lithographs, he represented such images with increasing clarity at the expense of gestural handling. Taking on the role of a disinherited shaman, Alan Davie created a synthesis of mythologies from a variety of cultures for a modern civilisation devoid of its own village myths.
He exhibited his work in a regional setting until his death in Hertfordshire, England on April 5, 2014 at the age of 93. His work can now be found in museum collections worldwide, notably including the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, among others.
He also had a retrospective exhibition at the Barbican Gallery in London in 1993. 'The Quest for the Miraculous' has been describe as powerful and individual with a range of culture influences from Celtic to Hindu to a touch of William Blake. His foreshadowed place in 20th century art history seems likely due to his diverse creative spirit which stretched to painter, poet, musician and jewellery designer.