Archer Davies – ‘Themes of Containment’


I have just two problems to solve in my painting –

1.  To find a subject that asks a question.
2.  To push the paint around until an ‘answer’ is discovered.

The answer to the question will always be a surprise, especially because the answer often comes in the form of a simpler, more essential question. The only way to conjure a surprise is to paint in such a way that promotes mistakes – to find a ‘zone’ as Philip Guston called it, where I am willing to ‘destroy even the parts of the painting that were working all along’. In this zone I risk failure and it is only here, working from life, not photographs, that I can find my surprise.

Gertrude Stein said that ‘art should be entity, not identity’. Through my collaboration with chance and failure I have attempted to strike a balance between my personal cerebral interest in the subject and the potential for the language of paint to fracture this interest and expand it beyond the mind. I have hoped through this deeply felt process, to avert clichés, both stylistically and conceptually.

This chaotic wrestle has been an experience which creates a tension that I have tried to contain in the work. These paintings represent the final outcome of that containment.