John Davies

(b. 1946)

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(1946– )

British sculptor, born in Cheshire. He studied painting at Hull and Manchester Colleges of Art, 1963–7, then sculpture at the Slade School, 1967–9. His work typically consists of male figures stripped to the waist, the heads cast from the life in plaster; they wear real clothes and shoes and have glass eyes, but their flesh is painted an ashen grey and their vacant inexpressiveness of face and posture is reminiscent of shop-window display dummies. Timothy Hyman writes that ‘The effect is as though we've been made to dream them, figures seen through rain or tears, and to take on their burden of grief’ (catalogue of the exhibition ‘British Sculpture in the Twentieth Century’, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1981). There is indeed a poignancy in such works as Two Figures (Pick-a-back) (1977, Sainsbury Collection, University of East Anglia) but also an element of horror when the artist incorporates what he calls a ‘device’ such as the muzzle in Dogman (1972, Tate). When the work was first seen it was related by critics to Superrealism. Now Davies can be seen as looking forward to some of the more imaginative and challenging play with and against illusionism in the figure sculpture of such artists as Juan Muñoz and Ron Mueck.

Subjects: Art.

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