Monday, June 17 2019

People

Alex Davis

 
He went from mechanical engineering to creating beautiful works of art. With his unlikely use of patterns, outlines, techniques and materials, Alex Davis has carved out his niche in the arena of sculpting. Priyanka Chakrabarti meets the unconventional artist.
 
In a bundle of metallic creations put together as ‘Dented Painted’, an engineer turns full-time artist, inspired by Indian streets. Alex Davis’s keen interest in art led him through an academic journey that started from engineering college and ended up on streets and galleries. He commonly employs imageries and resources that he chances upon on his road trips, as he loves to travel by road.
 
“I have a basic training in mechanical engineering and this education actually helped me to realise my passion,” says the reticent artist. “In those four years, I became affluent in materials and techniques; this in turn piles up in my art like a perfect blend of conflicting cryptograms,” says the artist.
 
Davis is a product designer who lives and works in New Delhi. Having completed his masters in product design from National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, as well as The Domus Academy, Milan, his designs epitomise the concept of modern India. “I graduated in mechanical engineering from Mysore University, then shifted to design. I have been in Delhi for twenty-two years, and I love working here,” he adds.
 
His latest work, ‘Dented Painted’, portrays sculptures enthused by the visual vocabulary of vehicles. “Having worked on stainless steel for quite some time now, I have produced large painted sculptures playing with graphics that titivate vehicles,” says the sculptor.
 
Evoking the style of a street painter, images of lotuses with whirling tendrils play themselves on painted steel in large dramatic sizes. “The cryptic words, found often on the rear section of public vehicles, have communicated directions, slogans and sometimes sweet-nothings. The fonts were developed in an indigenous flavour, combining popular culture, street graffiti and a homegrown language. Highly decorative, these fonts evolved from a desire to embellish. The vehicles became a family member of the owners and were sometimes named after loved ones. Like buying jewelry for a wife or daughter, the vehicle owners started decorating their vehicles and a new idiom developed around these vehicles giving birth to a new vocabulary in the South Asian public transport surface and that’s how it got recognition as an art form,” says Davis.
 
He explored these various forms giving them a sense of elevated drama in his latest exhibition. “I engaged with the decorative language allowing the scale and context to transform them. The gaze of the viewer then adds to this, moving them from popular culture to art,” he explains.
 
Davis has been practicing design for a very long time but it’s just been three or four years that he has indulged in nonfunctional designs. “I started off with ‘My Lazy Garden’, which depicted stainless steel plants, bamboos, et cetera. Then came ‘The Moonlight Safari’, ‘Hyper Blooms’, and ‘Naga’ followed. This kind of art feels like my true calling. I enjoy it, I live off it. It’s a great situation,” smiles the artist.
 
So where do his magnificent pieces head to? “Well, there are a few collectors who take these works with them; apart from this I have been showcasing my work for the past five years at a trade fair in Paris. And, of course, hotel lobbies flaunt my pieces too,” he quips.
 
Talking about his source of inspiration, the artist says, “I am a traveller and road trips, highways and pop culture give me the kick to work on my projects. The spirit of Indian roads fascinates me. Recently, I drove back and forth to Leh from New Delhi. At the juncture of Amarnath Yatra, we were stuck for one whole day on the road and that is when I was exposed to an absolutely bright and brilliant convoy of trucks. The thoughts and visuals accumulated in my mind, which in turn spilled out in the form of ‘Dented Painted,’ wherein I celebrated the bright, loud and contrasting colours of Indian roads.”
 
Academics never caught hold of Alex’s attention. Nonetheless, he was always inclined towards artistic ventures. “I was never interested in studying; however, I was fairly good with designing. Even while studying engineering, I would finish my work really fast and then help others: Designing came naturally to me,” he shares.
 
The artist, who admires the works of Anish Kapoor, Richard Serra and Rachel Whiteread, is currently working on a project with the Delhi Government.
 
 
 
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The artist himself.
 
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Ok’ displayed at The Aman, New Delhi.
 
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‘Blow Horn’
‘Stop’
‘Phool Patti’ displayed at The Aman, New Delhi
‘Neel Kamal’
 
 


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