Oliver Sears Gallery is delighted to present Variations, an exhibition of fourteen new paintings by Belfast born artist, Colin Davidson. Having spent many years focusing on oversized portraits of human heads, and after a shorter period painting nudes from life, Variations sees Davidson immersed in a single, extravagant bouquet of flowers. Observing this luscious arrangement of flowers, branches and leaves bloom, wilt, shrink and decay in his studio over eleven months, Davidson writes that he was “eventually painting nothing but the memory of the arrangement”.
It was music, however, that lead him to this intensely creative period when he began to respond pictorially to Elgar’s Enigma Variations - a piece of music he had known for many years. Written in 1899, the fourteen Variations represent characters in the composer’s life - musical equivalents of sketches or portraits. Beyond the notes Elgar attached to the music detailing the individuals, he also suggested that the work could ‘be listened to as a piece of music apart from any extraneous consideration.’ Davidson, too, remarks that the music drove him to find an equivalent motif and the bouquet, made by Janet Browne (The Flower Room, Belfast) became the source.
Fourteen works on canvas represent Davidson’s response to Elgar’s (fourteen) Variations. And they vary in scale, in focus and in volume. Lush, vivid imagery becomes more muted, less defined until abstracted from a very recent past. Davidson does not describe these ‘Flower’ paintings as Still Life. For a man who has examined the diversity of the individual over years of sittings with his subjects and confronted the memory of profound loss at close quarters, perhaps these new compositions, with Elgar’s beckoning, are ciphers that now give Davidson permission to make art on his own terms. To say something fresh on the subject of flower painting is almost impossible. Colin Davidson’s constant evolution as a painter, shackled to his own emotional intelligence ensures that, here, it’s the mystery of painting that endures.