I’ve just learnt that Alan Davie died a few hours ago. It’s very sad news. Our lunches with Alan and Bili, studio visits, conversations and correspondence were very special. Another of the towering figures of British art has gone.
His final pictures, in a new show at Gimpel Fils Gallery, are particularly moving.
The exhibition takes its title from one of Davie’s final and most moving paintings: “The symbol is neither rational nor concrete” This is a picture about the urge to communicate even as one’s powers fail, and also encapsulates the artist’s shamanic belief in himself as a medium. On one side Davie has written harmonious and discordant methods of communication – “Shout” “Sing” – and on the other side he declares in bold capital letters: “The symbol is neither rational nor concrete”. Between them a jaunty three-headed phallus is a literal demonstration of potency, even to the very end.
Also wonderful that tate Britain has a new room devoted to Davie, a welcome opportunity to see the paintings in the museum’s own collection, and recognise the essential continuities.