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Dark Corners: The Appalachian Murder Ballads: Paintings by Julyan Davis

October 12, 2013 - December 15, 2013

 

Dark Corners: The Appalachian Murder Ballads: Paintings by Julyan Davis, an exhibition of twelve compelling oil paintings by artist Julyan Davis, opened at the Morris Museum of art on Saturday, October 12, 2013. His most recent body of work, Dark Corners interprets traditional American, English, and Celtic ballads through images of the contemporary South.

Julyan Davis has said the folk songs that are native to the South have provided him with a familiar narrative and a human history that connects to his own background. In his view, the stories may be old, but, "one only has to pick up a newspaper to see that they remain fully contemporary." He describes the songs as close to his heart and identifies the folk music of the American South as something that has provided him with a direct connection to the Southern landscape for more than half of his life.Dark Corners: The Appalachian Murder Ballads: Paintings by Julyan Davis remained on display at the Morris Museum of Art through December 15, 2013.

 

(above: Julyan Davis, "You guessed about right" (Pretty Polly), 2012. Collection of the artist.)

 

Artist Biography:

English-born artist Julyan Davis has lived in the United States for more than twenty years. He received his art training at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. In 1988, having completed his BA in painting and printmaking, he traveled to the South on a painting trip that was also fueled by a keen personal interest in the history of Demopolis, Alabama, and its settlement by Bonapartist exiles. He now lives and works in Asheville, North Carolina.

His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, and he is represented in many public and private collections, including that of the Morris Museum of Art.

 

Biography and statement for 'Dark Corners': The Appalachian Ballad, Greenville County Museum of Art, May 4 - July 1, 2012

 
Biography
 
Julyan Davis is an English-born artist who now resides permanently in the South. He received his art training at the Byam Shaw School of Art in London. In 1988, having completed his B.A. in painting and printmaking, he traveled to the South on a painting trip that was also inspired by an interest in the history of Demopolis, Alabama and its settling by Bonapartist exiles. Davis is known for his paintings of the Deep South, the Low Country, Western North Carolina and the Coast of Maine. His work is in many private, public and corporate collections including the Greenville County Museum of Art, the Gibbes Museum in Charleston and the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia.
 
Statement
 
The traditional folksong of the Appalachians is close to my heart. I inherited an enthusiasm for such music from my father. With its Celtic origins, it has provided my connection to the Southern landscape since my arrival here twenty three years ago.
 
The songs of this region have given me an old, familiar narrative and a human history that connects to my own background. Some artists are happy to record every alien vista and strange culture travel can provide, but I have found this old tie important in placing me in this new land.
 
For many years I painted scenes; landscapes and urban views, old buildings and interiors, with not a figure in sight. Despite this, they were often described as being haunted by a human presence, and as places that somehow told a story. In these new works the figure has entered the scene.
Why this return to sentiment? Because the introduction of these figures do add just that- sentiment. My empty views are more dispassionate, journalistic even. They owe a lot to the tone of such photographers as Christenberry, Eggleston, Sternfeld.
 
If anything, these paintings owe more to the medium of film. They want to tell a story, but in a single, evocative image.
 
These stories are old, but one only has to pick up a newspaper to see they remain fully contemporary. Lovers still fall prey to despair and suicide, or end up in the crime report. These are paintings are set very much in the present, but nothing taking place in them is new.
 
The South wears its passion on its sleeve. It possesses what is referred to as a 'culture of honor', which is a gift to any artist, writer or musician. As in the Scottish Border Country, where 'Barbara Allen' originated many hundreds of years ago, people here take things personally. This makes life compelling. 'Hamlet' would be a play diminished if the hero had just sought therapy instead of revenge. These paintings are about people who are, in Shakespeare's words, 'passion's slave(s)'.
 
The fact I was given an introduction this winter to the upstate's area called the 'Dark Corner' was the happiest coincidence. It provided me with the perfect title for this continuing body of work, and a renewed connection to that particular part of the Blue Ridge (I lived for several years outside Highlands, North Carolina.)
With its fiery independence and clannish loyalties, South Carolina's 'Dark Corner' typifies exactly the culture that has kept this music alive for centuries, and acted again and again upon the passion it evokes. And what a name! That was a gift, because these paintings are all about the dark corners to which our hearts can take us.
 
When I painted the Southern Highlands there was always in my mind this music, full of myth and romance, that had long ago been the vanguard from my own country. The characters in this collection of paintings are the ghosts conjured from such landscape.
 
Julyan Davis
 
 
'Moreover, there was the influence of the Southern physical world- itself a sort of cosmic conspiracy against reality in favor of romance. The country is one of extravagant colors, of proliferating foliage and bloom, of flooding yellow sunlight, and, above all, perhaps, of haze. Pale blue fog hangs above the valleys in the morning, the atmosphere smokes faintly at midday, and through the long slow afternoon cloud-stacks tower from the horizon and the earth-heat quivers upwards through the iridescent air, blurring every outline and rendering every object vague and problematical. But I must tell you the sequel to this mood is invariably the thunderstorm.'
 
'The Mind of the South' W.J. Cash 1941

(above: Julyan Davis, "Go and do the best you can" (Little Maggie), 2012. Collection of the artist.)

 

Checklist

Julyan Davis
'Go and do the best you can' (Little Maggie)
2012
Oil on canvas
60x72 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'By her lily white hand' (Banks of the Ohio)
2012
Oil on canvas
36x38 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist
 
Julyan Davis
'You guessed about right' (Pretty Polly)
2012
Oil on canvas
48x72 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'Where the sun refuse to shine' (Dark Hollow)
Oil on canvas
2012
40x64 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'Would you take me unkind?' (Pretty Polly)
Triptych Left panel
2012
40x108 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'Would you take me unkind?' (Pretty Polly)
Triptych Center panel
2012
40x108 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist
 
 
Julyan Davis
'Would you take me unkind?' (Pretty Polly)
Triptych Right panel
2012
40x108 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'A fairer maid than me?' (Young Hunting I)
2013
Oil on canvas
48x46 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist
 
Julyan Davis
'For there he lies indeed' (Young Hunting II)
2013
Oil on canvas
48x50 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'Your cage shall be of beaten gold'
(Young Hunting III)
2013
Oil on canvas
48x46 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist

Julyan Davis
'There is a god above us both' (Young Hunting IV)
2013
Oil on canvas
38x72 inches
Credit line: Collection of the artist
 
Julyan Davis
'She looked east, she looked west' (Barbara Allen)
2011
Oil on canvas
36x38 inches
Credit line: Collection of Tamara Saviano

(above: Julyan Davis, "Where the sun refuse to shine" (Dark Hollow), 2012. Collection of the artist.)


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