phil davies

Like the great masters of this tradition, Poussin, David, Ingres and Picasso, Davies is a skilful exponent of pictorial theatre. In fact, he describes his practice as of someone who writes the play, directs the actors, designs and makes the props and lights the stage, a highly unusual definition of painting but entirely appropriate as Davies is an unusual painter. He believes that mystery can be a potent force in a painted image, that the sense of painting should emerge slowly. He believes that paintings should have undercurrents as well as surface currents. He believes in ambiguity and in the tension generated by opposites.

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Where To From Here? An upcoming Exhibition of Paintings by Philip Davies

Taunton’s Brewhouse Theatre and Art Centre is pleased to host an exhibition of paintings by the Yorkshire-born artist Philip Davies from March 23 – May 5.  This is Philip’s first solo show in more than a decade and, for anyone with an interest in modern British painting, not to be missed.

Where To From Here by Philip Davies

A Somerset resident since 2007, Philip’s intriguing repertoire of ideas and images has evolved over a career spanning more than 40 years.

WTFH is a compact distillation of his life’s work, featuring circa 25 figurative and near-abstract pictures that share the artist’s distinctive, sophisticated palette of muted colour and finish. His themes are multi-layered and invite engagement with the viewer through deceptive simplicity and at times disarming humour.

For over a decade from 1986, Philip was part of the stable of 20th century artists nurtured by the late Christopher Hull, a flamboyant Motcombe Street London gallery owner who famously combined his love of art and artists as a racehorse tipster.

Philip came to Hull’s attention when he won the Royal Overseas League annual painting  prize in 1986.  Until that time he’d been flat broke after a post-graduate degree from the Royal College of Art five years earlier.  Overnight, his paintings began to find their way into the homes of the rich and famous, thanks to Hull’s remarkable talent as a bridge-builder between young artists and well-heeled collectors.   The relationship brought Philip success, which he enjoyed but never quite trusted.  A part-time role for twenty years as Senior Lecturer in Visual Research at Brighton University was his safety net, along with the support of his long standing partner, the fashion designer Sue McCarthy .

As in the painted image, life does not run in a straight line.  Philip never stopped painting, but after 2006 he left his teaching post in Brighton and stopped exhibiting, giving himself time and space away from commercial pressures that were failing to nourish his talent.  The gap years extended when Sue fell ill with mesothelioma that claimed her life in 2014 at the age of just 59.

In some respects life had painted Philip into a corner. Through determination, hard work and an unwavering faith in his art, he has painted himself out of it again.  There is, as a result, a rich seam of optimism running through his work, which gives this exhibition a curiously commanding authority.

Where To From Here? Is showing at the Brewhouse Theatre and Art Centre, Coal Orchard, Taunton TA1 1JL from March 23 until May 5.  Admission is free.

Peter Krijgsman