Monday, 6 September 2010

Interview with Peter Davis

I am pleased to interview Peter Davis, a renowned Sculptor who has a long track record of group and solo shows in UK (RA and Barbican). He has been successfully working since 1966 and collectors include the National Gallery of South Africa.

I want to find out; how he embraces sensuality through the bodily form, more about the upcoming show 'The Pleasure Parlour' and the sustainability of his art practice. 
September 2010

Assyrian Wolf © Peter Davis
CP: In South Africa you worked as a furniture maker and Interior/furniture designer, why did you move into sculpture?

 PD: My friend, Beryl Jensen, a sculptor in copper, saw my furniture and said I should be a sculptor. I made a piece and showed it to her and she said, “That’s rubbish, try again” until I finally produced a piece she said was “Ok, not good but ok”. Three years later I sold my first publicly exhibited piece ‘Assyrian Wolf’ to another sculptor. 

CP: Pleasure Parlour at Core Gallery is an Art Festival, celebrating the exotic, the erotic and sensuality within the physical form. How do accentuate and embrace sensuality?

PD: Every woman has her very best parts and draws attention to them blatantly or discreetly. Men tend to defend on their reputation as athletes or warriors. I treat each sex as they would wish. 

Mother © Peter Davis

CP: Can you tell us about the sculptures you are exhibiting in the upcoming show at Core Gallery? 

PD: 'Shoulder Fragment' – Some women have beautiful shoulders!

'Crouching Form' - made from alabaster. Hipbones and back, hidden legs, breast and face!

'Seated Form In Contemplation' – made from stone. This lush form in repose shows no flabbiness and has dramatic hair. Serene knowledge of her attributes

'Hidden Face, Beautiful Hair' -– It’s all in the title.

'Pregnant Woman' – Obviously an attractive exercise in French curves

'Pregnant Torso' – made from Portland stone. You never know what she’s on (unless you look)

CP: In Greek mythology, ‘Pygmalion’ from Ovid's Metamorphoses X was a sculptor who fell in love with a statue he had carved of a woman.  How significant is the masculine gaze in sculpting the female form? 

PD: The artist can devote his whole attention to contemplating women and their ways over a long period without focusing censure and is often favoured in a way not readily available to most people.

Torso © Peter Davis

CP: As a sculptor do you have a strong visualisation of the end result or is it an intuitive approach?

PD: I always have a strong visualisation and make the piece over and over in my head before starting the actual physical work is pleasurable but not mentally demanding. 

CP: Where do you draw your inspiration and what artists have influenced your work?

PD: I love Michelangelo, Brancusi and Jean Arp. I have no idea where my inspiration comes from.

CP: You stated that you work mainly with wood. Is this because there is a higher degree of autonomy over the outcome of the sculpture through the direct approach of carving? 

PD: The greatest autonomy is in carving stone as it holds few surprises and mysteries. The same for plastics, but wood which is in a sawn up state can hold surprises. Free form wood is the greatest intellectual challenge and requires the very utmost vision and skill with tools.

Persophone © Peter Davis

CP: How do keep a harmonious balance between the material and form, and how do you let the characteristics of the material hold resonance?

PD: By acute and constant visualisation until you are ready to tackle the piece from all 360 degrees before you even pick up a pencil or other tool.

CP:  How important is the accompanying space around the sculptures and is this something you take into account prior to making the work?

PD: Since I have a storage problem I tend to make intricate pieces which are happy in a home an invite handling and close observation. This question has more relevance to monumental sculpture of which I have done none.

CP: you said that “I am interested in creating forms that are recognised instinctively by anyone’’ What qualities ensure a work is identifiable to its viewers?

PD: Since all art (apart from Dadaism) is abstract the qualities which separate it from the banal or the mundane in execution is the quality of the artist ‘I never thought of it like that’.

Birth © Peter Davis
CP: You have been fortunate enough to sell a vast amount of your work, with over 95 pieces of your sculpture sold. How does the art market compare to when you was first starting out? And what advice would you offer to other artists in creating a sustainable livelihood?

PD: I started in South Africa where the population is very well educated and informed and skill is highly regarded. In comparison in England skill is lowly regarded, something a ‘workman’ needs but a ‘gentle man’ doesn’t. He can get by in intellectual banter.

CP: And finally, Have you got any upcoming projects or plans to reveal?

PD: I am close to 80 years old. I never know what I will be doing tomorrow.

Thank you Peter Davis

1 comment:

  1. Peter Davis is probably one of the greatest sculptures of our time. His work needs no interpretation as it speaks immediately to the viewer. What we experience in his work is a rare level of skill in collaboration with a sense of beauty and connectedness that make it impossible for a feeling mind not to be deeply touched by his work and which would require a high level of constraint from a feeling body to resist the temptation of touching his work. Luckily, at Core Gallery, the admirer is allowed to give in to this urge so he can enjoy the oppulance of these carved shapes with the touch of his bare hand.

    Markus Kuehl