Alan has gathered a wide collection of symbols or magical signs, sometimes accidental when 'things just happen by magic', sometimes borrowed from other times and cultures and sometime purposefully created. These symbols recur in his work as a form of language. Alan deliberately leaves his work open to the viewer's own imagination and interpretation. Music, jazz in particular, plays a crucial part in Alan's art, not only as it helps him reach transcendental levels but also in the way it translates into his works as he juxtaposes colours to make them resonate with each other.
Alan Davie was born in Grangemouth in 1920 in a family of professional musicians and artists. He has had a varied career not only as a painter but also as a jazz musician, a poet, a jeweller and a printmaker. Although much underrated, he is nonetheless today one of Scotland's greatest living artists. He has influenced many and his works can be found in the most prominent museums and collections around the world. His unconventional studies at Edinburgh College of Art where he often clashed with his tutors, were interrupted by the war. After the war he travelled throughout Europe with his wife Bili, meeting the avant garde artists of the time. His encounter in Italy with the influential art collector Peggy Gugenheim , proved to be a turning point in his career.
He achieved prominence in the 1950s and 1960s, exhibiting in London and New York and became acknowledged as an Abstract Expressionist, although he would refute being part of this or of any other movement considering himself an outsider artist. Success helped foster his creativity and from the early 1970s onwards he divided his time between St Lucia in the West Indies and Britain. Alan Davie has had a prolific career and has written extensively and eloquently about his working process.
He has given numerous interviews over the years. In the following quote from 2012, he speaks of archetypal signs:
"I see in tribal art forms, images, signs and symbols, which I recognize (DEEPLY WITHIN MYSELF). Some of these signs actually occur automatically in my own spontaneous black brush drawings. I tend to agree with JUNG when he talks about 'archetypal images'. [...] I thereby find myself immersed in a universal human creative condition, which is timeless and shared by all of us. There occurs [...] a DIALOGUE between my painting and the tribal sculptures which stand in our home alongside the pictures - they live very happily together. I feel they both embody a spiritual essence which is timeless and beyond cultures or history."
Quote from a review on Alan Davie by Dr J McKenzie
'Introducing Alan Davie' by Douglas Hall in Alan Davie (1992), Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd, London