I recently had the chance to visit with Doug Davidovich at his studio in Portland, Oregon. If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Doug, the first thing you'll notice when you do is that he's a big, angular guy. And in my opinion, his artwork invariably resembles him. Even when he's working small, Davidovich's prints and paintings seem larger than the surface that they're on.
I've been a fan of Davidovich for a long time, so I'm really pleased to have him as our first Semi-Finalist. Below are some questions, answers and photos of his work.
(WIP from the Citadel series)
Semi-Finalist: OK, let’s get started. The first question seems obvious, but I have to ask it: the 70’s… why?
I grew up in Southern California during the Seventies! The sun-soaked colors and clarity of light really shaped my visual experience and aesthetic. Mid-Century Modern architecture and design was predominant, as was the Brutalist and International style. The structural & material simplicity, set alongside minimal landscaping, had a big impact on me; along with the bold shapes of Seventies graphic design and the influence of surf & hippie culture. The warm tones of film and polaroid photography are my default filters that continue to guide my color palette.
(Recent lino block prints and partial view of paintings from the Flat of Angles series)
S-F: I’m often drawn to artists that don’t fit neatly into a category. You seem to love hanging out in that lawless, untameable space between abstraction and representation. Talk about how you navigate that world.
DD: It’s really a great space to be in. I definitely carry along skills learned from my early years of landscape and still-life painting. Photo realism was never the goal. As I moved through Impressionism & Van Gogh, and then to the Symbolists and Modernists, the idea of emphasizing an emotional/spiritual meaning behind certain representational shapes, lines and colors became more interesting than simply capturing a particular scene or motif within a traditional composition. Since I’m still using referential elements and visual logic from the objective world, I retain some basic rules of observational painting & drawing. This gives me a necessary parameter to work in. I’d go overboard without some kind of restrictive navigational guide to follow.
(Above: work table with paintings and drawings on paper
Below: close-up of a work in progress)
S-F: Who or what are you looking at these days and what are you taking away from them?
DD: I’ve been learning and studying photography; which is a great tool for composing space and isolating subject matter. Naturally, I’m checking out the work of many photographers: Bernd & Hilla Becher, Robert Adams, Lewis Waltz and Aaron Siskind are some of my favorites. Most are focused on landscape and architectural/structural imagery.
Folk art and craft: the textures and surface treatments of ceramics, textile art and wood carving.
Architecture: both interior & exterior - a constant influence & inspiration for geometry, scale and structure, defined & illusionary space and dimension.
(Above: a wall of earlier work, Llano Road #8-11, acrylic on panel, 2010
Below: a close-up)
S-F: You spent a lot of time studying with representational artists when you were a student. When did your work shift away from the influence of your professors?
DD: Yes, two amazing painters in particular had a major influence on my development; Ron Graff at University of Oregon and Stanley Lewis at American University. And that’s a tricky question because I still hear their advice playing in my head while painting. So their influence is still totally with me even though my work now has shifted significantly away from their styles. I was drawn to abstraction and started experimenting with some non-representational elements at U of O. In grad school, the real change in direction was instigated by Stanley’s discussions about the underlying structure in the compositions of traditional landscape painters like Constable. That really inspired me to look at things differently and set me off on my own course. There definitely was a progression, but I’d say it took another four years to develop a personal style.
(The artist in his studio demonstrating angularity)
S-F: Rulers, hand drawn, or both?
DD: Both! I use hand drawn sketches for quickly working through initial ideas, then ruled lines to enlarge the drawings to the scale I want for a finished piece. I also make great use of masking.
SF: What’s the ideal setting for your work?
DD: I’m really attracted to the dynamics of a structured environment, and always consider the role my work will play in activating a particular space. Though I’m naturally drawn to modernist style urban interiors, I love the idea of creating a visual dialogue by combining minimalist aesthetics within a more traditional or rustic space. Ideally my work will play an interesting role in that conversation.
You can see more of Doug Davidovich’s work and contact the artist through his website at https://davidovichstudio.com/ and at https://www.desousahughes.com/.
(Below: more Davidovich!)