Interview with Rob D. Davies: Art – Income/Money … Doing/Creating
Written by Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney.
Photograph © Artist Rob D. Davies 2007.
Thursday 08 March 2007
Rob D. Davies is a recent new artist to Transvoyeur. His art focuses on fine art practice researched and developed from images in popular culture and mass media. Davies describes further to Gaynor Evelyn Sweeney in an interview his professional practice.
Sweeney: When did you first become interested in art and recognise yourself as an artist?
Davies: I suppose it was watching my Dad (who was in the Civil Service all his working life and wouldn’t rate himself as an artist) create little drawings of men in suits smoking pipes, which I began to copy. From there it was a very gradual thing. It changed when I was 17 and suddenly wanted to be a guitarist instead! Then, on my Fine Art degree I became really immersed in painting and making objects, installations etc. but it wasn’t until about 8 or ten years later that I actually started to consider myself an ‘artist’, strangely enough! This is probably due to self-confidence, but also ideas of ‘success’ and of making money through art.
Sweeney: Can you explain your art work?
Davies: An underlying interest or concern is control and the abandonment of control. I often think back to landscapes I was producing about 12 or 14 years ago, which were verging on abstract, and were more intuitive creations than I am doing now. I have been wondering why I shifted away from those, but it is probably because, basically, I am such a scatterbrain, and so I quickly become interested in other things! This has led to me basing sequences of drawings on the wanderings of the mind, which then has obvious connections to narrative, time, a graphic novel etc…and probably opens up a huge can of worms. However, it still ties in with the idea of control….of focusing on one image, and then losing that control and creating brief stories or fantasies.
It has also led to thoughts on how we see or distort or add to our view of the world, and how film (also a sequential-based medium), and particularly Hollywood, has probably had some influence on the way people understand or have a romanticised view of their world.
I also feel that I shift between what could be called commercial art and ‘serious'(?) art, but maybe there shouldn’t be such a division, or maybe the division is only in my mind..
Sweeney: Your work has a strong interest in the practice of drawings and paintings? How do your drawings relate to the paintings?
Davies: They are two ways of saying a similar thing, I think. Although, I went through a period of only creating drawings for a couple of years, up until recently, because I didn’t want certain things such as colour to distract from the message, or story that I was creating within the images. But also, like a lot of visual artists – past and present – I also play a musical instrument, and I think that there could been numerous other activities in my life – or most people’s lives – that serve as an ‘outlet’ for expression. Or is it all just a kind of therapy I wonder?
Sweeney: What artists have inspired you and why?
Davies: For a while I was interested in William Tillyer, Ivon Hitchens and Maurice Cockrill, and also Turner, because of the references to a wild, often chaotic land/ landscape and our relationship to it. I actually rang Tillyer up after seeing an exhibition of his in The Bernard Jacobson gallery in London, which seems like a really mad thing to do now. He seemed a bit taken aback and I felt a bit embarrassed, too! Oh well, never mind.
More recently it has been artist/ illustrators such as Guy Billout (said ‘Gee Beeyou’) and Andrzej Klimowski. I decided to do my M.A in Illustration. It was a new course at Falmouth College of arts and the emphasis was on illustration being given back its importance and as being just as valid as ‘Fine Art’ (as it used to be many years ago), and also an emphasis on the relationship between image and text, which interested me a lot at the time (and still does to a slightly lesser degree). It was a bit of a strange choice, but it was a good course and I seem to like to take chances and do the unobvious now and then (or maybe, as my Dad says, I just like to do things the hard way!?).
I could also include people like Morehei Ueshiba – the founder of Aikido – as an influence. I see martial arts and pursuits that involve the body (or body and mind together), as important in life, just as much if not more, than painting…that just being alive is enough, really, without doing anything….but I end up doing a lot, so there is a paradox.
Sweeney: What subjects shape and influence your work and how?
Davies: I used to see it as a problem…the fact that I don’t really have specific subjects, and that I shift a lot from one thing to another, but now I accept it more and realise that it is not the types of subjects that make the work, but the approach…if there is a common subject then it is the mind. Some small recurring themes have been birds, reflections, buildings and wilderness merging together…a general metamorphosing of things.
Sweeney: What motivates you to create through painting?
Davies: This is not an original statement, but is by Picasso. He said that the reason for him painting was ‘an unloading of anxieties’. I really like that. As I mentioned, I am starting to get back to painting more, after restricting myself to the most basic tool – a pencil (which I also like because people are gradually moving further away from simple things such as this…so if society feels compelled to do that, then I want to do the opposite!…I’ve always been a bit back-to-front!). Painting seems to be a bit more alive than pencil, somehow, or to have a life of its own – it leads you a bit more and there is generally less control than with a pencil.
Sweeney: Do you use any other media as research source or in production of your art?
Davies: I need to keep things as simple as possible. I used to try to be as unusual as possible – such as by painting onto physical objects, which was interesting, but I was often trying too hard to be unusual or original. But now I realise that it’s ok to appear to be like other artists…that different artists’ work can look very similar in a superficial/surface way, but it’s the intent and underlying messages etc that can be original. However, I have started to look at film and television as a way of kick-starting images, though this is a fairly new part of the creation of the work.
Sweeney: What do you plan for the future as an artist in your professional practice?
Davies: I have been working on some little ‘packets’ of cards/drawings that I hope to be able to send out here and there, to infiltrate into people’s everyday lives – or onto the desks of big corporations…either or both. I would like to be able to use these cards as a precursor to an actual complete story – or graphic novel. I would also like to tie in some of my paintings with relevant companies or locations whether that is a shop or a TV broadcasting centre.
On the whole, though, the plan is to carry on as I am doing, which is gradually making more contacts, and basically, feeling my way along…preferably feeling my way out of Liverpool, but not severing connection with the place….just connecting with as many places as possible.
Sweeney: What are the positive and negative experiences of being an artist?
Davies: The obvious negative is the uncertainty of income/money…but I suppose life is uncertain. There is also an expectancy for you to be ‘serious’ and to justify just about everything you do or say (thus possibly restricting you) or maybe I just impose that on myself. I dislike talking about art too much because it tends to destroy the actual doing/creating aspect.
Gilbert and George, in a recent T.V programme, sounded as though they avoided talking and debating about art, which, to me was refreshing to hear. Another ‘influence’ or person who I admire is David Lee Roth, who I see as verging on performance artist and not just ‘rock star’. His way of speaking and behaving is reminiscent of Muhammed Ali and numerous aspects from the 1960’s, and is more free-flowing than my often procrastinated, rigid way of communicating. However, that is also overlapping onto the idea of Hollywood, ‘showbiz’, which I presume has permeated into his way of behaving. I also wonder whether it is full of pretence, even though it masquerades as unpretentious. I am no doubt opening up another can of worms here.
As for the more positive experiences of being an artist…you actually do get paid for doing something that is not simply creative but is completely to do with growth, learning, being alive.
Sweeney: What do you want to be remembered for?
Davies: I don’t think it really matters. People will remember what they want – that is completely out of my control…… If my work helps people or just gives them a bit of a buzz and gets a decent amount of exposure…well, that seems to be pretty good going. I keep thinking that there have been trillions of amazing things in the lifetime of the earth that humans never even saw, but it doesn’t make them any less valid or amazing just because humans didn’t witness or remember them. Kind of makes me think of ‘Big Brother’. Hey, Jade Goody, get down!
Further information on Davies’ work can be viewed at:
For future events Davies is involved with Transvoyeur: