Paul Davies: Built in Translation

28 March - 2 May 2014

The Fine Art Society Contemporary presented work by Australian artist Paul Davies, produced during his three month residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris, awarded by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.

Paul Davies creates seductively atmospheric paintings that consider the precarious relationship between built and natural environments. These are not landscapes in the traditional sense, rather they are portraits of space and investigations into the limits of organic and urban forms. Idyllic yet abandoned: the homes in Davies work invite the viewer into the picture.

Davies represents notions of dislocation and timelessness by drawing heavily upon American and Australian Modernist architecture and distinctive natural topographies. The subjects include houses and landscapes from a variety of contrasting locations, which once stenciled, impose a structural order over the various backgrounds upon which they are painted. This process refers not just to the way Australia, since colonisation, has imported architectural styles to strive for a cultural identity. It also highlights the struggle against what is seen as the unforgiving natural environment.

Built in Translation features amongst others Le Corbusier’s French modernist icon, the Villa Savoye or machine for living. However, devoid of human form and repeated within foreign settings, these ‘textbook’ homes become eerie settings in which the viewer is invited to consider a variety of possible narratives.

The play between stenciled areas and free hand painting has always been a core component of the artist’s work and in recent years the contrast has been taken to further extremes. Referencing the work of British sculptor Rachel Whiteread, Davies has translated his stencils into sculpture. His ghostly bronze pieces refer to the bridges that hold the stencil together as an entire sheet. In his practice the stencil has become emblematic of a recurring structure, highlighting the imperceptible boundary between the past and the present.