The Silent Observer

The friction between built architecture and nature serves as a dominant theme in Australian artist Paul Davies’ works.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Published:September 19, 2016 12:20 am
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Devoid of any human presence, Australian artist Paul Davies paints a large modern minimalist home in most of his canvases. He adorns it with a swimming pool and surrounds it with haunting trees resting in eerie silence, lending it a magical vision.

Standing in front of the painting of a house located in a forest, with slender white tree columns guarding it under the night sky, Davies says that his paintings are inspired by his photographs of buildings and surroundings that he finds interesting during his travels. His paintings turn into a stunning collage of these photographs, as the artist cuts each photograph into a stencil to sketch the outline. Twelve of his works now dot the walls at

Art District XIII gallery, in the exhibition “Southern Exposure”.

Bearing a strong graffiti influence, the landscapes appear as if they were handpicked from a vacation album — there is a swimming pool from a mansion in Los Angeles, palm trees decorating the Palm Springs, the Bauhaus-styled Seidler House in Sydney, and Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in France.

Based in Los Angeles, the 37-year-old artist from Sydney utilises mid-20th century modern architecture as the skeleton for his canvases surrounded in the lap of nature. “What I find interesting about architecture is that it is a functional space and a controlled environment. Landscape, in contrast, is not so controlled and speaks of freedom. As humans, we witness this contrast. When we are indoors, we see one space that is rational and as we step outdoor, the space bursts into freedom,” he says.

In Bridges and Palms, the house rises up to a night sky, surrounded by railings that form a bridge, as tall palm trees open up like umbrellas, with the entire canvas brimming in turquoise green and black. House Palms Pool Flip stands testimony to Davies’ many sightings in the city of Palm Springs in Southern California, home to one of the largest concentrations of mid-century modern architecture. In his work, he surrounds one of its high-end luxury homes with blackened palm trees, set against a pinkish sky, with the pool in matte blue serving as a mirror reflection.

The frames are devoid of human presence. “It is like a stage, where the viewer is the actor, who can create his own story. If a figure was present on the canvas, the onlooker would start thinking about the other person and start imagining space around it.”

Davies’ parents discovered the artist in their son at the age of seven, when they left him behind at a relative’s house. They returned to find out that he had only been sketching Asterix cartoons all that while. His inspiration remains famous fashion photographer Thomas Hemmings, portrayed in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Oscar-nominated classic Blow-Up (1966). “Like him, I want to paint what exists beyond the visible,” says Davies.

The exhibition is on for the next two months at Art District XIII, Lado Sarai