Artist Paul Davies lives in a house inspired by one of his own paintings. Usually it’s the other way around: iconic modernist homes inspire Paul’s work. But in this case, his mother-in-law was so enamoured with a piece he gifted her depicting the silhouette of a modernist house, she designed her beach house (brought to life by Blok Modular’s Dan Burnett and Stuart Vokes of Vokes and Peters) in its image. When Paul, his wife Sarah, and their son Arlo returned to Australia after six years in Los Angeles last December, the young family moved right in!
Paul set up his studio in the bottom floor, and got to work creating the pieces which are now on display at Sophie Gannon Gallery. Space Displaced is a series of 11 works, each depicting architecturally significant sites around North America.
The process of creating Paul’s technicolour, architecture-inspired paintings is time-intensive, and often take up two years in development. First, he goes on a research expedition, taking photographs of scenes and buildings he comes across. From that initial reconnaissance mission, he finds one or two images he likes the most, and sticks them on his studio wall. ‘That’s where they’ll stay for about two years!’ he says.
Paul enlarges each photo and cuts it into a series of complex stencils, before proceeding to collage multiple cut-outs into a single scene. Though the houses look like West Coast architecture, the buildings featured in this body of work include Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe in Chicago, and Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob – two of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic homes in Pennsylvania. These iconic exteriors have been combined with imagery collaged from different environments: towering Australian gums, skinny Palm Springs palms, the Aspen forest in Colorado and residential pools in Miami, creating a totally original, imagined location.
Natural elements such as trees, sky or bodies of water are often painted in bright, vivid shades, while man-made constructions are rendered in black and white. This stark colour contrast implores the viewer to consider the tension between the natural environment and the built one.
In addition to referencing architecture, photography, and even Warhol-era Pop Art techniques in his work, Paul draws on much earlier references, too.
‘I am interested in the way the post-impressionists depicted landscape by separating colour in block forms,’ he explains. ‘Because it allows the viewer to project onto these spaces rather than give away too much information. Rather than depicting a landscape as it is, I am interested in how these methods can reveal different ways of looking.’