Eating with Artists: Los Angeles returned artist Paul Davies
With Covid keeping us firmly grounded, the colourful images that are Paul Davies' work evoke a deep sense of nostalgia, and are these days somewhat voyueristic. Mid-century modern architecture, silhouetting architect greats like Lautner, A. Quincy Jones and Schindler, kidney shaped swimming pools, palm trees. California dreaming- take me there.
Meeting Paul Davies though, brings you quickly down to earth. Davies conveys a passion for his work, a man seriously committed to his craft, working with an exacting precision to produce each intricate piece.
Davies contemplates for months at a time or even years, before he cuts stencils out of his selected drawings, and of many many photographs he takes of buildings and landscapes. From here, he uses his stencils in various adaptations over which he paints his assembled story. The outlines of buildings and their reflections, all cool angles and planes, are often surrounded by water and vegetation; these elements too, often appear stylized and glassy. Yet the canvases explode in colour: Davies is not shy of pastels, and uses them to great effect, pinks, banana yellow, aqua and marine blue.
Trained at College of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, Davies majored in sculpture, which he describes as not his first choice, but something he stuck with. Many years later, Paul's training still informs his work, the carving and chiseling which occurs for each of his paintings an integral part of the final product.
Part of Paul Davies's practise today is also casting stencils in bronze.
For anyone who has experienced the bi-coastal life between California and Australia, a blanket of nostalgia and longing cannot be ignored in looking at a Davies painting. The intermingling of gum trees (imported to California during the gold rush in the 1850s by Australians) with iconic skinny Californian fan palms and the pandanus trees of the Queensland coastline weave a thread that's hard to separate, blurring the landscapes of two places that have so much in common.
Currently living in Sydney with his young family, I visited Paul at his studio, a neat and tidy space with only a work table in a corner, and a metal rack to hold his stencils and canvases. 'You don't sit, Paul?' we ask, incredulous that there isn't a chair in sight.
Paul laughs as if a dirty secret is revealed: 'I can't get too comfortable, or else I wouldn't work; I"d probably fall asleep.' A new parent would relate.
We walked down the road and ate lunch at Cafe Freda's. As little sprout was in daycare, Paul's partner Sarah joined us. A communications specialist, she's taking the Covid year to further her training with postgraduate studies. Neighbouring friend and art enthusiast Lakshmi was also along for this outing.
Paul had the chicken salad with pickles on focaccia, Lakshmi and I ate variations of the radicchio caesar salad, and Sarah enjoyed the congee.
We perched on stools at a bar table overlooking Taylor Square sipping kombuchas, and amongst issues at hand, babies, travel and future plans, we talked about food. I asked Paul these questions:
Tina: What do you eat for a quick meal when you and Sarah are really busy ?
Paul: Broad beans on toast- it's super simple. Just rub olive oil on bread and then grill it.
The rub some garlic on it.
Put frozen broad beans, chilli and a bit of garlic and olive oil in a pan and fry until the beans are brown.
Heap on toast and sprinkle with parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.
Tina: What's a naughty food obsession?
Paul: Twix bar or Kit Kats!
Tina: Can you share some of your recent favourite places to eat in LA?
Paul: Destroyer Cafe in Culver City has amazing Sandinavian pastries and the coffee is great with their home made oat milk. Sarah likes the chocolate salted caramel mousse.
Petit Trois is one of my favourite restaurants in LA, its a tiny restaurant in Hollywood. The food is amazing and you sit across the kitchen and watch the chefs at work.
Kensho Hollywood is a great indoor/outdoor Japanese restaurant. You can see the Hollywood sign but its super low key and not touristy at all.
The food is delicious and the organic wines are great.
Badmaash is next door to Jon and Vinnies and has delicious Indian food, craft beer and wine, and a fun atmosphere too.
What's an early food memory, Paul?
Paul: Watermelon! I remember it was all I wanted to eat as a kid and I couldn't understand why anyone would chose to eat anything else.
Tina: Would you share a favourite recipe please ?
Paul: Here it is!
Paul Davies has shown his work extensively from Laguna Art Museum and the Palm Springs Art Museum to Bathurst Regional Art Gallery. His work is in the collections of Soho Warehouse, DTLA, the Crocker Art Museum, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, amongst others.
Paul Davies is represented by:
Tim Olsen Gallery in Sydney
Sophie Gannon in Melbourne
Peter Mendenhall Gallery in California
Photos of the artist are my own. Images of further artwork courtesy Sophie Gannon Gallery website and pinterest .