Monday, 28 January 2013

Distinct lack of snakes in an exhibition of ladders at The Brewhouse...

Ladders, ladders everywhere you look. Hmmm...I think it’s fair to say there is a clear theme in Andy Davey’s exhibition currently on at The Brewhouse! The show features over 30 mixed media drawings, three massive paintings as well as several actual ladders on the wall – if merely looking at a ladder gives you feelings of vertigo then look away now!

As a fellow artist whose own work features agricultural and hand tools, I can understand how easy it is to become obsessed with drawing/and re-drawing the seemingly mundane. The simple fact of the matter is, the more you spend time looking at these objects [ladders/tools] the more reason you find to be fascinated by them. Initially for me, it was the formal qualities of tools that appealed to me; their shape, texture, colour and surfaces were something I wanted to make art about. My ‘relationship’ with tools in my own work later gained greater significance as I developed my practice and began to question it more whilst studying. With Davey’s drawings [some of which more fragmented and abstract than others] I get the impression that it is also the formal qualities of, in this case, ladders that is the basis for his work. The negative shapes and spaces in and around the ladder are deconstructed and reassembled amongst the (also fragmented) forms of the ladder itself.

Part of me did wonder if maybe Andy starts these drawings by chopping up an actual ladder and sticking it back together. Regardless of the exact process he may use the results are exciting, dynamic and lively compositions that almost quiver with a sense of movement and rhythm more familiar to the design of jazz posters than a ladder. These kinds of work, I anticipate, possibly leave your average viewer thinking, ‘What? That’s a ladder?!’ Who ever knew that the humble ladder could be so dynamic! Despite the places my work has taken me, what has always appealed to me about art has always been the same and that’s arts ability to give new perspective on things that we know well/are familiar with. So it is very refreshing to be reminded of this in Davey’s exhibition of work.

If anything the exhibition isn’t really about ladders at all, it’s about drawing and as the title suggests, ‘work’ and ‘surface’ which Davey has done even to the extent of drawing on the gallery walls themselves! The painted surfaces are layered, dragged and scrapped through revealing and disguising the structure of the ladder in the work so despite the dominance of the ladder as a ‘grid-like’ structure the work doesn’t look as geometric and slick as you might expect. They are much more gestural and expressive with the ladder often emerging out of a cloud-like vapour. Yet despite all the symbolism that the ladder and the cloud-like forms in some of the drawings could suggest I don’t, personally, read too much into them metaphorically. They could quite easily become, ladders to heaven, ladders to earth, Jacob’s ladder and many other sorts of associations (and maybe to some people they do) but for me they are more formal than that, a more compositional thing used to create an image/mark making/expressive. Who knows? Maybe they have personal significance or attachment to Andy, we’ll find out at the artist’s talk on February 6th (see note below). I find myself making links between Davey’s drawings and the work of,  Jasper Johns, Larry Rivers and Richard Hamilton’s paintings all of whom have depicted objects in their work but they’re [the objects] are always a kind of trace of the whole thing and it’s often not entirely clear what you are looking at. I prefer Andy’s more black and white drawings, as I’m not so keen on some of the colour combinations on some of the coloured works –which could just be down to a matter of taste. I’d like to know how he does choose his colours, a question I will save for Wednesday 6th. The only other thing was that I wouldn’t have minded a ladder of my own so I could see some of the drawings close up as they are hung high (mostly because there are so many and the hanging also mimics the height of the actual ladder on the adjacent wall) but then maybe I just need grow taller!
 Andy Davey’s, ‘Work : Surface’ can be seen at The Brewhouse until, February 23rd. Or come along on Wednesday 6th February to an artist’s talk, with the artist himself! More details can be found on:

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