12 Questions with Artist Julyan Davis

Helena Fox Fine Art welcomes artist Julyan Davis for a two man show opening on March 2, 2018. His work will be featured alongside West Coast artist Scott W. Prior. We chose these two artist for this show for many reasons, but one being that they both depict similar subjects in their paintings. Often highlighting the mundane, forgotten, or just everyday in their work, their subjects are similar, but their styles differ tremendously.   What we wanted to know was is this an East Coast/West Coast thing, or is it deeper than that. In preparation for the show, we thought we’d get to know the artists a little better.

Julyan Davis was born in England and came to America around 30 years ago. He now resides in Asheville, North Carolina. His work has been exhibited extensively throughout the south and is part of the permanent collection in several museums–The Gibbes Museum in Charleston being one of them. His most recent exhibit was in conjunction with the centennial of the Bonaparte exiles settlement in Demopolis, Alabama. Mr. Davis will be participating in an upcoming joint show at The Gibbes as well as a residency program through the museum later in the spring.

12 Questions with Julyan Davis

  1. When did you begin painting?    I started painting in watercolors when I was 14 or so. I began working in oils after high school.
  2. What brought you to the United States?      I inherited an interest in American history and culture from my father. I found the South’s wealth of music, literature and complex history fascinating. Carl Carmer’s ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’ (1934) contained a chapter on Demopolis’ settling by Napoleonic exiles, and I came over to learn more. The three months I intended to stay became thirty years.

    Un Songe Un Peu Moins Inconstant
  1. How do you choose your subjects?    In the scenes and interiors I paint, I look for a jolt of recognition- a combination of light, composition, mood, and a strong sense of narrative in a place. When searching history and folklore, I seek a similar jolt: a human detail that speaks across time. A couple of lines in a history book can be the starting point for a whole series.
  2. How did you get into the Murder Ballads and the subsequent series—Mermaid Storm and the Exiles?  I grew up listening to such ballads in recordings from both sides of the Atlantic, and my father played these songs. When I moved to North Carolina they connected my origins with my new home. I’m friends with many native ballad singers around Asheville. The tradition is alive, and it seems to me the motives behind the crimes the songs describe are just as alive. The ballad series is only a way of reminding us how the past and present are connected. Chekhov said his job as a playwright and writer was just “the proper presentation of the problem”. I take the same tack: in not trying to offer any solution or judgment, but merely to present the facts.

My next series ‘The Exile’, was a way to interpret the story that had brought me to the States (The Napoleonic settlers of    Alabama’s Vine and Olive Colony). I had originally considered it as a subject for fiction. The exploits of one, minor character, the mistress of General Raoul, struck me as full of symbolism for those fallen from grace and far from home.

‘The Mermaid Storm’ series is still in the early stages. I am seeking venues to show the work, and collaborating with poet Glenis Redmond on this (again symbolic) slave legend of Low country mermaids beckoning storms to punish their captors.

Calm Before the Storm
  1. What are you reading?  I’m reading a history of the Scottish Borders, ‘The Steel Bonnets’, short stories by Bernard Malamud, and also Svetlana Alexievich’s ‘Voices from Chernobyl’.
  2. Are you teaching your son to paint?  Not yet. I certainly hope he will follow my profession or something similar. Years ago, I met the son of a Welsh painter, a successful young businessman. He would have traded his large income gladly for the freedom he remembered his father enjoying.
  3. What do you do when you aren’t scouting for paintings or painting? How do you relax?  I like to take long walks and sneak off by to the occasional matinee at the movies.
  4. Name three of the artists—living or dead—that have influenced you the most. Velasquez, Levitan and Bonnard.
Music Room, Lyon Hall Demopolis, Alabama
  1. How do you describe your art to others?  That has changed over the years. I’d say now that I’m a journalistic sort of artist, one that prefers painting to every other medium. I choose to be a realist painter because realism seems to convey what I want to convey best, and to the broadest audience.
  2. If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?  India, I think. But not as a visible tourist. I’d want to spend a couple of months in the company of some very erudite guides. I’m fascinated by all those religions.
  3. What are the three most used pigments on your palette?   White, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Umber.
  4. What did you want to be when you were a kid?  A comic artist, then briefly a vet, then an illustrator, then a painter.

Join us on March 2, 2018 from 5-8pm to meet Julyan Davis and see his new work.

Helena Fox Fine Art

106-A Church Street

Charleston, SC  29401



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