Lot 18
  • 18

Alan Davie

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
37,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alan Davie
  • Improvisations for a Gay Ghost No. 1
  • signed and dated MAR 1964 on the reverse; titled on label attached to the stretcher bar
  • oil on board
  • 122 by 144cm.; 48 by 96in.


Acquired directly from the Artist by the present owner


Alan Bowness, Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1967, cat. no.477.

Catalogue Note

‘There can never be a complete or perfect work of art, for perfection is death. Perfection is infinite, imperfection is infinite. One can only complete something according to a preconception based on knowledge, which is so much dead past. Self-expression is the antithesis of art. Expressionist painting or action painting can only be good if it achieves transcendence of the very expression. The act of gesture, coming out of rage, fear, joy, hatred, tenderness, love, frustration, etc. (all superficial, transient emotions) if it is to be a lever, an opener-up, a tool, must be only a means used as a force to help liberate the underlying (or overlying) human psyche which alone is real and enduring’ (Alan Davie, quoted in Alan Bowness (ed.), Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1967, p.15).

As Davie matured as an artist throughout the 1960s his compositions became more clearly defined as he realised the tropes and motifs which had the greatest effect in his art. In his early work Davie had accessed a higher level of consciousness through spontaneous or automatic painting, but by the 1960s, he referred to this higher state by including emblems and signs associated with Zen Buddhism and magic.

In this work, Davie has contrasted the painted shapes against the bare ground, allowing the viewer to focus on the detail of each individual element. While the viewer is drawn across the work by the thrusting black and white shapes, they are drawn back to the two diamonds in the centre of the composition which appear symbolic in their placement. The piece then explodes with colour, which was central to Davie’s life and work, as he commented: ‘Perhaps colour is impossible to talk about. Colour is like scent – indescribable; or like a chord struck on a harp in the darkness. The mysterious element of colour, perhaps the most important element in my painting (and indeed my life), is something utterly magical to me, filling my life and surrounding me with wonder’ (Alan Davie, quoted in Alan Bowness, Alan Davie, Lund Humphries, London, 1992, p.66). The title of this work, Improvisations for a Gay Ghost No.1, hints at a similar musical connection and suggests that Davie was inspired by colour in the same way as the great early pioneer of highly coloured soft-edged abstraction, Wassily Kandinsky.