Alan Davie

Alan Davie: jingling space.

Exhibition at Tate St Ives

Alan Davie, who was born in 1920, is one of the first Britons to have received international acclaim after World War II. This retrospective of his work in St Ives (until 25 January 2004) is fitting because he has lived in Cornwall for the last 50 years, and would count himself among the St Ives school—one of the paintings on show is “Patrick’s delight” (1960), named after his St Ives colleague, Patrick Heron. Davie, in fact, is difficult to pin down. Working in typical St Ives semi-abstraction, his brushwork, bright colours and infantile themes (wizards and tigers, for instance) are nevertheless more reminiscent of the work of CoBrA artists than of those working in St Ives. The exhibition is keen also to emphasise Davie’s under-appreciated Surrealist tendencies, as in “Flight of the fireflies” (below). Praised by the likes of Peggy Guggenheim, he exhibited in New York in 1957, and in his thick, aggressive brushstrokes we may detect the influence of artists like Willem De Kooning. By contrast his originality is reflected in an interest in jazz composition, expressed in the painting after which the exhibition is named. In addition, there is a selection of works from the Tate Collection by Modern masters (including Ernst, Matisse and Pollock) to complement the Davie show.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 141 November 2003