LEEDS.- The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery
has acquired a work by Scottish abstract painter Alan Davie for the University Art Collection, with support from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund.
Figure Mask No. 2 (1956) exemplifies the type of work Davie was producing when he was invited to become Gregory Fellow in Painting at the University of Leeds from 1957-59, and shows the influence of his beloved improvisational jazz music. The painting is now on display in the permanent collection room.
The Gallery is open to the public Monday to Saturday, 10-5pm, and admission is free.
Seed funding for the purchase came from the bequest of Georgina Dobrée, a renowned clarinettist and daughter of Bonamy Dobrée. Bonamy Dobrée was a member of the Gregory Fellowships committee appointing Alan Davie, and so therefore the purchase makes an apt tribute to Georgina, for its musical and family connections.
The MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund supported the purchase of the painting with a grant of £25,000, and membership charity the Art Fund contributed support of £20,000.
The painting was recently on display at the Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery in the 'Alan Davie' exhibition (16 March - 5 June 2010). The exhibition celebrated the 80th birthday year of the artist, born in 1920.
1956 - the year Davie painted Figure Mask No. 2 - has been recognized as a turning point in the artist's career. He had shows in London, New York, Copenhagen, Oslo and Manchester. During this time, Davie began to work in series. In order to create paintings such as Figure Mask No.2, he would lay several boards on the floor and work on them simultaneously, using shared forms, patterns and colours in each painting.
Through the process of painting, making changes, additions and erasures, the final series of paintings relate to each other, without being repetitions. Each work in the series expands and builds upon the prior work, and collectively demonstrates how Davie sought to tease out ideas and themes in his work.
Like many artists of the post-war generation, Davie was grappling with the legacies of Surrealism during the mid-1950s. The wish to paint completely free from conscious desire preoccupied him. Following thinker Carl Jung, Davie believed- and continues to believe- that it is only possible to live the fullest life when we are in harmony with universal symbols. For Davie, this meant spontaneous mark marking free association and the attempt to create automatic images unhampered by conscious thought. The fleshy central mass of Figure Mask No.2 demonstrates Davie's belief in the power of unconscious abstraction to convey a truthful reality.
He stated in a lecture in 1961 that: "The more obstinately one tries to learn to shoot for the sake of hitting the target, the less one will succeed. In the same way, as long as I am aware of my inability to paint exactly as I desire, I am paralysed by that very desire and only when I succeed in abolishing completely that desire can I create anything".