New Directions: Lucas Davidson

Artists who have recently taken their practice somewhere different.

Words: Daniel Mudie Cunningham

“I’ve been reluctant to use colour in my practice, and I don’t really know why that was,” explains artist Lucas Davidson of his new work. “I didn’t feel like I had a grasp of colour, so this is a new direction that’s been a long time coming.”

Over more than a decade, Davidson has produced a compelling body of monochromatic work that pushes at the boundaries of photography. The impulse to expand the medium led to installation and video and stemmed from “a struggle with photography’s two dimensionality”.

Installation granted access and immersion: “I wanted to be able to walk on the material and to be in it and to experience photography in a different way.”

Davidson’s work has consistently sought a form of transcendent pure abstraction made from reconstituted figurative elements. Using readily accessible digital cameras, printers and software, he pulls apart the limits posed by photography and its ever-evolving tools.

Where his past work has been cerebral and probing in its aesthetic and conceptual propositions, recent directions signal a glorious shift in lightness and mood, achieved via colour.

“I felt that I needed colour in my life because of this reoccurring cancer that I’ve had for the last five years.” As a diversion from the physical and mental pressures of illness and treatment, Davidson would seek avenues of distraction by going to the studio. “It was a part of my day where I didn’t have to really think about my health, and I would become consumed in the work – it was therapeutic.”

But finding colour did not come naturally. Looking through art books from his library was a starting point and inspired a process of photographing cropped details of works by his favorite artists. In sampling colours from artwork reproductions, the original image became decontextualised and unrecognisable. Once printed they become striking colour fields, like Rothkos for a digital age.

Davidson’s new works speak to the horizon and its capacity to create a state of flow, a freeing up of the analytical mind. “It’s this being in the moment that I’m trying to get back to in a way.”

Titling his next solo exhibition at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney showing from 3 February to 4 April 2023, Learning to Let Go, Davidson reflects: “I have been forced to reconsider all aspects of my life and learning to let go was a way to prepare myself for the inevitable that we are all faced with at some point in our life. Learning to let go of a family, art, living, understanding, the list is long.”

Featured image: Lucas Davidson, Learning to let go, 2022. Pigment print on photo rag, 118 x 166cm. Courtesy: the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023. 

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