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In Focus: Martin Davis and his pop art aesthetic

ATHENS has become the new home for quite a few artists who have relocated here in recent years. One such artist is Martin Davis, who was born in Manchester, grew up in Wrexham, North Wales, and moved to Athens in 2016. A self-taught artist, who has exhibited many times in Athens both in solo and group shows, Davis is currently taking part in the group exhibition ‘Er-os Woman’ at the Hellenic-French Association on Kolonaki Square (organized by Dimitris Lazarou in collaboration with Art Hub Athens), where he is presenting his portraits of Twiggy. Meanwhile, in London, his artwork ‘Trully Callas’ is being exhibited digitally at the Saatchi Art Gallery, in Mayfair.

Partial view of the exhibition ‘Er-os Woman’, running at the Hellenic-French Association till November 27

So, how did Davis end up choosing Twiggy and Callas?: “As I look at hundreds of photographs of famous people to paint, sometimes a photograph just captures my imagination, as did the Twiggy photographs. When I start to paint her I didn’t have a conceived idea of how I will progress, but the idea came along instinctively,” explains the artist. As for Callas: “In this case the style suits the mood of the photograph, and trying to capture the essence of her personality”.

Like many artists, in what he calls “these trying times”, Davis has also turned to the internet, selling his work in America and Europe online (via Etsy and Saatchi Art), but also constantly exhibiting his work in online exhibitions. But the pandemic also broadened his artistic horizons in ways he wouldn’t have experienced otherwise: “Though the current pandemic has devastated all walks of life and businesses it didn’t affect me personally to create at a fast rate. I was actually painting more than ever, and quickly. I also followed the weekly UK TV competition ‘Sky Artist of the Year’ and due to the lockdown they did a 4-hour weekly paint along with a famous person being painted by a wonderful artist. ‘Facebook live’ allowed 2000+ artists from around the world to also paint the famous person every Sunday morning. It was a way out of the 4 walls of the house in a virtual reality on a wonderful scale.”

Portrait of Janis Joplin by Martin Davis

Athens was a game-changer for Davis: “Living in Athens has been a stark contrast from the Welsh town life compared to the big city. With so many things to do for entertainment to exhibiting my works, it has been mind-blowing… As I was secluded where I lived in the UK, I was somewhat adrift of the vibrant art scene in many UK cities so Athens has given me a huge lift to pursue further afield also around the UK. Plus, I have made so many art friends within my time here as well as through my time as a business English teacher in Athens with Berlitz Language School.”

Athens also helped Davis develop a particular interest in one certain art genre: “Over the years I have experienced a wide selection of subjects but it has been within my time in Athens where I have channeled more of my creative juices towards portraiture and especially music icons due to my love for music of all genres.” From Oasis to Iggy Pop, Callas to Hendrix, Davis has explored many a music icon’s features, creating unique artworks in the process, with his pop-inspired aesthetic.

Martin Davis with one of his paintings

But Athens has also offered Davis the chance to encounter an altogether new subject in his art oeuvre: the quintessential Athenian city scenes. Picking up the tradition of travelers from other epochs, who came here and captured the ancient capital’s charm, once again the old city’s beautiful churches, the Acropolis, the narrow streets of Plaka and Monastiraki come to life via Davis’s pen and inks, watercolours and other mediums: “Athenian scenes speak for themselves and how could I not be enchanted to paint such an iconic place as Athens… I am always awe-inspired”.

Davis is an artist who likes to explore a wide range of subject-matter in general, and another theme that runs through his work, is that of animals: “Animals just add to the happiness to be painting and when I’m searching for an animal subject, ploughing through hundreds of photographs and eventually am arrested by an animal’s photo, it’s because of the stature and colour, but also just it’s presence that stone me in my tracks and I must paint it.”

What unites however all of Davis’s work, is his particular style, inspired in part by pop art, but with a few other techniques and processes thrown in, to form a unique mix. “The inspiration comes through music and the works of Van Gogh, Warhol and the American Caricaturist Al Herschfeld” explains the artist, and adds: “As all my subjects whether it’s a street scene, portrait or an animal  I will pop art the subject with the usual vibrant colours which I have always used in my colour palette. The techniques I have honed over the years when I was thinking I don’t have a style, just crept up on me! And yes, I’m happy to say I have a pop art style now!!! I always use acrylic paint and sometimes wig standard emulsion paint or blackboard paint and paint pens, depending on what I have the feeling the artwork needs. I also use the edge of a plastic ruler and hair combs. Together with the standard paint brushes and palette knives.”

Bison painting by Martin Davis
  • ‘Er-os Woman’ runs at the Hellenic-American Association till November 27. Address: 2 Kolonaki Square, 4th floor (next to Piraeus Bank). Open Monday-Friday 5-9pm; Saturday 12-4pm. Closed Wednesday and Sunday.
  • Participating artists in ‘Er-os Woman’: Didem Alitsoglou ,  Lydia Z., Markella K., Martin Davis,  Maximos Manolis,  Lina (Niki) Adamopoulou,  Anastasia Anthrakopoulou, Evangelia Verri, Ivi Gavriilidi, Konstantina Dellaporta, Spyridoula Dimou, Vasileios Kagkaras, Vasia Kakavouli, Stella Katergiannaki, Christina Katergiannaki, Marina Korelli, Kyriakos Mariolis, Vivi Mentzelopoulou, Eirine Mitoudi, Maria Michaelidou, Aimilios Barbatos, Athanasia Pastrikou, Athina Stavrou, Vicky Tsomakou.
Callas portrait by Martin Davis

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