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Drawn to Dusk - Artist Paul Davies puts his crafted LA work on show at Sydney

Australian Financial Review 3 October 2015

Helen O

Paul Davies cuts his stencils with the same kind of scalpel blade his ophthalmologist father uses to slice into eyes.

The results are different of course. Davies junior's use of the scalpel is potentially far less messy and brings forth images that are apparently serene and seemingly two-dimensional. Yet the issue of redefining vision is the same.

That is a theme that has defined this 36-year-old artist's career to this date. Born in Sydney, now living in Los Angeles, he often uses mid-20th-century modern architecture in his work yet says what is there is not what it seems.

"Architecture is a metaphor for an idea spreading," he says. "It is also a metaphor for transition and relationships."

"House Mountains Pool", vinyl acrylic copolymer on canvas, 153 x 122cm (2015). Paul Davies

Davies has come a long way since his childhood on the NSW Central Coast. His parents realised their son's artistic potential at the age of seven after they left him at a relative's home and came back to discover that he had spent the entire time drawing his own Asterix cartoons.

To encourage him they engaged a local art teacher and, for the next seven years, Davies spent virtually every Saturday in what he describes as a "tiny bush shack near Gosford", learning the skills that would eventually take him to Paris, on a residency, in 2013 and then to Los Angeles, where he now lives as a successful, and sought after, artist.

Asterix is long gone. Today, Davies' artworks are the result of a painstaking process that involves him hand-cutting stencils from his own photographs, then using them to build imaginary, seemingly idyllic, scenes.

He is talking in the back bar of the Hotel Centennial not far from the Olsen Irwin Gallery in Sydney's Woollahra, which has held sold-out exhibitions of his work since first picking him up in 2006. It is also just around the corner from the one-bedroom apartment he bought in 2011 with his wife, publicist Sarah Noye Davies. 

"House, Mountains, Blue", vinyl acrylic copolymer on canvas, 153 x 122cm (2015). Paul Davies

He orders a soft drink and observes of that real estate purchase: "Thank God Sarah was there. She was the one that said we have got to put some money away. I'm hopeless with money."

The pair now live in a three-bedroom house in West Hollywood, the rent for which "per month is the same rent we are getting for our apartment", he notes with a laugh. 

Davies describes his work as being "driven by opposing forces … whether it's the built rather than natural landscape [or] art versus design". On his mind is the notion of surveillance, particularly as it intersects with social media – a tool he uses for establishing a "conversation" with clients and followers around the world but which has a dark side.

"The art world has changed more in the last three or four years than in the last 30, and social media is a huge part of that," he says. "[But] you only have to pick up a phone and it's tracking what you're doing."

"House Forest White", vinyl acrylic copolymer on canvas, 170 x 137 cm, (2015). Paul Davies

Yet as a 21st-century artist "you have to be on it", he says. "It translates the message, and it's your voice."

The challenge "is not getting bombarded by the noise".

Paul Davies Other Desert Spaces, October 7 to 25, Olsen Irwin, 63 Jersey Road, Woollahra, Sydney.


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