Harrogate exhibition to veteran hero of modern art

Artist Alan Davie at 108 Fine Art gallery in Harrogate.
Artist Alan Davie at 108 Fine Art gallery in Harrogate.

I first heard the name of Alan Davie when representing my primary school at an annual national art competition in Scotland., writes Graham Chalmers.

Being in such an inspirational environment as the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow tended to produce a rabbit in the headlights effect on me, perhaps dazzled a little too much by the faint idea that I might possibly follow in the great man’s footsteps.

Born in 1920, Davie was a big name at the time; the only person from my hometown of Grangemouth who had made his mark on the international stage.

Having been championed by famed collector Peggy Guggenheim in the late 1940s, one of the UK’s greatest living artists first came to fame in the 50s in the US, where he was soon on first name terms with artistic fellow travellers such as Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning and Mark Rothko.

Davie has always been his own man and he soon moved away and beyond abstract expressionism towards personal visions fuelled by his passion for jazz and poetry, African and Pacific art.

His reknown has ebbed and flowed since then, despite being awarded the CBE in 1972, but his work has remained brilliantly colourful and creative through the ebbs and flows.

Now, 50 years after that royal honour, his stock has risen once more. Still working at the age of 82 from his home and studio near London, where he also composes music, it was announced recently that Davie has been appointed to the Royal Academy, joining the likes of Sir Peter Blake and David Hockney in the current ranks of Royal Academicians.

And a new exhibition is to be launched in Harrogate this weekend which will show the full range of his talent across more than 50 years.

Held at at 108 Fine Art gallery at 1 Crown Place. Alan Davie - A Diamond Romance will present a wide range of his paintings and drawings from 1948-2012.

Named after one of his greatest works, a stunning 180x240cm big oil on board diptych painted in 1964, the retrospective also gives a fascinating glimpse into Davie’s private life.

Included are a small group of drawings made by his wife Bili during their travels together in Europe in the late 1940s.

The delicate pencil and ink drawings form a record of their everyday domestic lives; created on odd scraps of paper at a time when artists materials were still in short supply on the Continent.

Despite his Scottish roots, Davie’s life has produced links in Yorkshire, too. In 1957 he was invited to become the University of Leeds’s third Gregory Fellow in Painting.

These fellowships, funded by printer and philanthropist Eric Gregory, enabled artists, sculptors, poets and musicians to develop their skills at Leeds.

The scheme has recently been revived as the University’s Academy of Cultural Fellows; the first recipients of this funding are award-winning composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad and acclaimed stage designer Becs Andrews.

To attend Saturday’s VIP launch, call 01423 709108 or 07798 908857.