Eyestorm, London, United Kingdom

The Fun One Hundred by Peter Davies

Peter Davies Biography

Edinburgh, 1970 -

Established conceptual Scottish artist Peter Davies reflects in his artworks two differents forms: on the one hand there are text-based paintings, and on the other there are abstract works. They both share certain qualities though: they both take art as their subject matter, and both explore the role of the artist in defining popular culture.

Text works are nothing new; many conceptual artists explored this technique with supreme dryness in the 70s. But Davies' text works seem far removed from this traditional notion of how conceptual, text-based art should appear. Rather than being executed in a dry documentary style, Davies' paintings are multi-colored, squiggly-lettered lists of things associated with the world of contemporary art. Of course, in some ways these paintings are quite close to the aims of early conceptual artists. Davies' wordy arrangements explain how things stand in a particular system without recourse to traditional forms of representation. And as works of art they are humorously reflexive, dwelling upon the artistic context that they are part of.

Davies developed his text-based works in parallel with his abstract paintings, these latter works often taking the form of minutely detailed canvases, such as Small Touching Squares in a Pattern Painting. This work, composed of four large panels, comprises tiny squares forming bands of color arranged in a wobbly mesh. It is utterly of its time, referring to the resurgence of manual labor in contemporary art. All around us efficient management techniques and digital technologies obviate the need for a human touch, yet within art labor- intensive practices are revisited, foregrounding issues of the individual within society. Furthermore, Small Touching Squares. is timely in a wider sense, reflecting fashion's interest in the patterns of a retro-Missoni look. Other abstract paintings have explored formal constructions with what has been described as a 'lo-fi' attitude. Fields of color, or lines delineating cubes, are arranged on the picture plane suggesting spatial progression and recession, but all in a rather touching, slightly unordered way.

Whilst still in his mid-20s, studying at Goldsmiths College, Davies began exhibiting in London. His early works were shown in artist-run spaces, such as Brendan Quick's House and Lost in Space, which was operated by Martin Maloney in his flat. For example, in the show 'Gothic' at Lost in Space in 1995, Davies made an eponymous text painting that listed all the artists that he thought of as Gothic, with accompanying explanations.

In 1996, Davies' work was to be seen in the West End in 'Die Yuppie Scum', a group show curated by Maloney at Karsten Schubert gallery. Davies made two works for the show, an abstract painting and Text Painting, which detailed his snappy opinions of other artists in a stream-of-consciousness style delivery. It kicks off with: 'Art I like is, Sean Landers the most important artist of his generation' and proceeds to include the following assessments: 'Glen Brown [sic] oh when the saints come marching in repro classics, Sarah Lucas her hard hitting empowerment attitude, Louise Bourgeois tough tits she'll rip you to bits'. The following year saw Text Painting being pored over by visitors to 'Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection' at London's Royal Academy.

During this time Davies produced savvy explanations of the artworld hierarchy in his paintings The Hip One Hundred and The Hot One Hundred. These are colourful charts ranking contemporary and modern artists according to Davies' opinions, rather than mere received wisdom.

High-profile exhibitions continued in 1998, with several Davies paintings being shown in 'Die Young Stay Pretty' at London's ICA (again curated by Maloney) including Fun With the Animals: Joseph Beuys Text Painting. This large work - spanning nearly four meters by two and a half - was a complex network of artists, subject matter and disparate art movements, each linked by colorful lines that stretched like streamers between word bubbles. Everything could be traced back to the influential post-war German artist Joseph Beuys, and as such the painting was a deft manipulation of the German showman's legacy. It also offered a horizontal slice of historical interpretation, punning perhaps on Alfred Barr's seminal vertical genealogy of art influences created for New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1936.

In New York, Davies exhibited at Gavin Brown's Enterprise, bringing his work to an American audience for the first time. Meanwhile, back in London, he had his first solo show, 'New Paintings', at The Approach gallery in East London. Subsequently Davies has been included in 'Neurotic Realism: Part Two' at the Saatchi Gallery in 1999, and 'Recent Acquisitions' at Tate Britain in 2000, which saw his work exhibited as part of a major public collection for the first time. In 2001 Davies exhibited at the Gagosian Gallery in London: his first solo show in a major commercial gallery.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS - 'New Paintings', Gagosian Gallery, London, 2001 - 'New Paintings', The Approach, London, 1998

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS - 'Complementary Studies - Recent Abstract Painting', Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, UK, 2001 - 'Salon', Delfina Projects, London, 2000 - 'Neurotic Realism: Part Two', The Saatchi Gallery, London, 1999 - 'Recent Acquisitions', Tate Britain, London, 1999 - 'Die Young Stay Pretty', ICA, London, 1998 - 'Home and Away', Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York, 1997 - 'Sensation: Young British Artists from The Saatchi Collection, Royal Academy, London; - Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, 1997 - 'Group Show', Waddington Galleries, London, 1997 - 'Artists and Their Spread', 53 Exmouth Market, London, 1997 - 'Die Yuppie Scum', Karsten Schubert Gallery, London, 1996 - 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner', Brendan Quick's House, London, 1995 - 'Multiple Orgasm', Lost in Space, London, 1995 - 'White Trash', Lost in Space, London, 1995 - 'Gothic', Lost in Space, London, 1995

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY - Jeremy Moon: A Retrospective Catalogue, Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, UK, 2001 - Herbert, Martin, 'Salon', Time Out, December 6-13, 2000 - Ellis, Patricia, 'Peter Davies: Beyond Painting', Flash Art, January- February, 2000 - De Cruz, Gemma, 'Spotlight: Neurotic Realism', Flash Art, November-December, 1999 - Stallabrass, Julian, High Art Lite, Verso Publications, 1999 - Young British Art - The Saatchi Decade, Booth Clibborn Editions, 1999 - Bridget Riley - Paintings from the 1960's and 1970's, Serpentine Gallery Catalogue, June, 1999 - Collings, Matthew, This is Modern Art, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, May, 1999 - Smith, Roberta, 'The Arts; Critic's Notebook', The New York Times, October 1, 1999 - Gayford, Martin, 'Who Cares about labels?', The Spectator, September 25, 1999 - Cork, Richard, 'A case of less matter, more rat', The Times, September 15, 1999 - Alfree, Claire, 'Neurotic Realism: Part Two', Metro Life: Art, September 15, 1999 - Kent, Sarah, 'Of mice and men: Neurotic Realism returns to the Saatchi', Time Out, 8-15 September, 1999 - Morley, Simon, 'The Painted Word', Contemporary Visual Arts, Issue 23, 1999 - Andrews, Max, 'Exhibitions: Die Young Stay Pretty', Contemporary Visual Arts, Issue 22, 1999 - Slyce, John, 'Spotlight: Die Young Stay Pretty', Flash Art, January- February, 1999 - Collings, Matthew, 'Being Entertained', Modern Painters, January, 1999 - Garnett, Robert, 'Exhibitions: Die Young Stay Pretty', Art Monthly, 1998-1999 - Shave, Stuart, 'Spiral Tap', ID Magazine, December, 1998 - Die Young Stay Pretty, ICA London, November, 1998 - New Neurotic Realism, Saatchi Gallery Publication, June, 1998 - Kent, Sarah, 'Neurotic Outsiders', Time Out, November 25-December 2, 1998 - Januszczak, Waldemar, 'Farewell to the pickled sharks?', Sunday Times, November 15, 1998 - Mullins, Charlotte, 'Lost in space found at the ICA? Profile: Peter Davies', Tate Magazine, Winter, 1998 - Darwent, Charles, 'Brit Art's Next Big Thing', The Independent on Sunday, November 8, 1998 - Macritchie, Lynn, 'Rude Brittania', Art in America, April, 1998 - Coomer, Martin, 'Peter Davies', Time Out, March 4-11, 1998 - Roberts, James, 'Be there or be square: James Roberts on Peter Davies', frieze, Summer, 1998 - Sensation - Young British Artists from The Saatchi Collection, Thames and Hudson, September, 1997 - Collings, Matthew, Blimey. (From Bohemia to Britpop: The London Artworld from Francis Bacon to Damien Hirst), 21 Publishing Ltd, May, 1997

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