The Creative World of Alan Davie (5 stars)

This article is from 2009

The Creative World of Alan Davie

Remarkable mix of the dark and the sublime from much-loved Scottish artist

Saxophonist and journeyman translucent Alan Davie is surely one of Scotland’s greatest living artists. At almost 90 years old it’s remarkable to think that this is the first exhibition of his work to embrace the breadth of his output in painting, tapestry and rug making (and to a lesser extent sculpture and jewellery design). The result of an eight-year long collaboration between Davie and this wonderful tapestry studio and exhibition space, The Creative World of Alan Davie traces Davie’s artistic trajectory from gauche art student to grifting musician and artist to sponge-like spiritual seeker.

Moving from the intense early promise of his pre-war Self Portrait, the exhibition opens out with the familiar glories of Jingling Space (1950) and Woman Bewitched By the Moon. Like his beloved jazz music, the surrealist influences of Paul Klee, Jackson Pollock and Joan Miro play off Davie’s need for improvisation and the frenetic. Davie’s experiments with geometric structuralism and domestic paints and brushes pass by like so much catharsis – and then the bearded crosses the border and discovers Latin America and tapestry. Celtic Spot No 2. Vivid colours and the skies of Venezuela are everywhere but soon Davie is channelling African as well. Ever the shaman, ever the Zen artist Davie puts himself out of the way in these works, these beautiful hand-hooked rugs and tapestries seem more a manifestation of tribalism and Guli masked delusion than anything else.

Funnelled by ceiling to floor photographs of a younger Davie at work and glass cases full of personal ephemera it’s easy to linger a long time in the first room, but it only tells half the story.

The second room brings things up to date with modern works including the vibrant New Adventures in Blue, the humorous Second Attempt and the cluttered Cosmological Structures. In the window frames and on the walls sit the talismans that have inspired Davie for almost half a century. A ceremonial dance mask made by the Bebo people in Africa, purchased by Davie in 1966, sculptures and fertility masks from other tribes complete the picture. Like a true translucent artist Davie has come full circle to embrace the spectrum of human experience. A potent blend of the dark and the sublime, it’s a remarkable journey with an amazing artist.

Dovecot Studios, 550 3660, until 26 Sep (not Sun), £3 (£2).

Edinburgh Art Festival: 'The Creative World of Alan Davie'

The Creative World of Alan Davie

  • 5 stars

The Creative World of Alan Davie celebrates the remarkable breadth of work from one of Scotland’s most respected and influential artists. As Davie approaches 90, this major exhibition will include specially selected examples of his work in sculpture, painting, tapestry and rug making, jewellery design, printmaking…