Wednesday, 4 April 2012

John Davies at the SCVA, with friends

John Davies, Bucket man, 1974, Mixed media

Dear friends over from Hungary. We pick them up at the station in heavy rain and drive to the Sainsbury Centre where we mooch and marvel among the permanent collection which is arranged primarily geographically and anthropologically but with sprinklings of Francis Bacon and John Davies, as well as Degas, Modigliani, Soutine and Picasso. Much of it was bought in the 70s and is beautifully laid out.

Davies is interesting because while he is quite well known as a sculptor he is nowhere near as public a figure as Francis Bacon was. Sir Robert Sainsbury (1906-2000) must have picked up his work before Davies even in his thirties, and his work lives most intensely here in the early Norman Foster building.

One looks, and thinks George Segal, then Ana Maria Pacheco, or a Pop Artist like Marisol or even Duane Hanson, but Davies's figures are, on the whole, more abstracted, more lost in their sense of the transformative moment, than Segal's monumental ordinary folk, than Pacheco's doomed, wicked, or enchanted totems, and, unlike Marisol or Duane Hanson, they make no comment on popular life. There is usually an item or two of mysterious significance included with the naturalistic yet oddly frozen figure - a mask or a board, just enough to be unsettling without becoming stagy-sinister. The faces are intelligent but withdrawn behind a veil of something like suffering,

Whatever the Sainsbury family saw in them they certainly thought them important enough to collect and display permanently in numbers.

The Bacons are a mixed bunch, not all fully resolved but still haunting. Afterwards back home to talk and continuing the talk in the nearby Number Twenty-Four which does a very good celebratory meal. We are celebrating the visit.

Tomorrow the weather will be better, That's a promise.

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