Michael Davis

Michael Davis’s most recent series of works blend together the realms of abstraction and landscape. For his larger works, bold colours flow across the canvas, making visible the figures of trees and the contours of river banks before slipping seamlessly back into abstraction.We are invited into an image of a landscape, yet not necessarily a specific one. Rather than reflecting place, Davis’s works are more inclined to embody it.The subject matter therefore becomes secondary to the emotive affect and sensory experience of the work. 

At a fundamental level, abstraction is an attempt not to represent virtual reality but to instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestures to encapsulate it. Considering this, it seems the perfect mechanism through which to explore the emotional associations of place. It is this tendency that inclines it towards capturing what some have called ‘spirit.’ Or, as Abstract Expressionist painter Roberto Matta termed ‘inscape.’ Matta was attempting to describe abstract paintings that explore the psychoanalytical landscape of the human mind. This is also an interesting perspective through which to view Davis’s works. When I Was Young  She Was“The Mighty Nep” Now She Is “Yandhai” and Childhood River Memory in particular, are loosely inspired by the Nepean River which Davis explored as a child. Therefore, these images are wrapped up in memories of time past. They are poetic manifestations of place, tied to childhood nostalgia and how that morphs with time. 

Davis described how the works emerge intuitively.  He initially focuses entirely on the abstract, playing with colour before integrating figuration and composition. Working out of his studio in Sydney, this provides him with the freedom to create without constraint, allowing ideas to emerge naturally. Often he says that the conceptual parameters of the work come after the fact. However, the idea of nature, whether physically inhabiting it or mentally imagining it, has always been a form of respite and retreat.This perhaps informs its continual meandering presence throughout his practice. 

The smaller works, titled a “Street Choir,” take another direction. Bright stencil-like trees stand before a shallow darkened background, allowing them to visually pop. Davis describes these works as an “ode to street trees.” Fragments of text and speech bubbles such as “bleeding heart” and “every little fear,” serve to personify the trees, giving them individual character. It also perhaps speaks to the peculiarities of human emotion and desire.These works were loosely inspired by the countless lockdown walks taken by Sydney siders during recent lockdowns. Street trees, often passed by without a sideways glance, became for many their only exposure to the natural world, subsequently taking on a new level of significance and appreciation. As an avid art book collector, Davis chose to present them in linear rows and columns similar to a reference book. Each tree is considered without bias for their unique traits and characteristics. 

Davis completed his Masters of Art Education at the University of New South Wales, Sydney in 1996. He then worked as an art teacher before transitioning to focusing entirely on his own practice.Throughout his career, he has exhibited regularly with commercial galleries in Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast. Recent solo exhibitions include: Floating the Falling,Van Rensburg Galleries, Milton, 2021; New Paintings, Bromley & Co., Melbourne, 2017; Black Forest, Gallery One, Gold Coast, 2017; New Paintings, Bromley & Co., Melbourne, 2016 and Tip of The Mountain Top of The Tree, Gallery One, Gold Coast, 2015. 

His work was also featured in the 2007 Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Davis currently lives and works in Sydney.