A series of precipitous events set Davie’s fortunes: exhibitions were organised for Florence in November 1948 and in Venice the following month during the first Biennale since the end of hostilities. Peggy Guggenheim visited Davie’s exhibition and proceeded to purchase Music of the Autumn Landscape, a transformational encounter that led to exhibitions in New York at Catherine Viviano Gallery and an introduction to Gimpel Fils in London. Where Guggenheim herself was instrumental in the enthusiastic reception of Davie’s work on the international stage, it was her collection that was to prove a catalyst for Davie’s febrile imagination. Exceptional Surrealist works by Paul Klee, Hans Arp, and Max Ernst sat alongside monumental Abstract Expressionist paintings by Jackson Pollock, then relatively unknown in Europe. Such exposure, at this stage experienced by Davie alone amongst his British contemporaries, left a profound impression and instigated immediate evolution. The lineage between the Surrealists and the New York School that embraced the unconscious and chance, urges and impulses, spoke to Davie’s personal affinity with the inexplicable and surreal, as did the poeticism of the Surrealists and the performative working methods of Pollock. Synthesising these two related strands of artistic practice, Davie had begun to formulate his own vision by the end of the 1940s.
In Old Man’s Dream, a grid-like internal armature of black paint encloses heavily worked accretions of paint. The impervious surface and compact forms suggest an intensity of working process, a concentration and fervour in Davie’s handling of paint. Although Davie was yet to embrace Zen beliefs, his spiritual approach to work was already closely aligned with Zen practices. Davie wrote in his travel journal that he was '…opposed to conscious and systematic work…free from the props of individualism and mannerism of style, against accepted human laws and values, but bound in its free rhythm and natural force by the true laws of natural forms, the unknown laws which govern in such a mysterious way the elements of sky, sea, stones, jungles, stars and celestial spheres.' (Alan Davie, quoted in Alan Davie, with essays by Douglas Hall and Michael Tucker, Lund Humphries, London, 1992, p.18). A rhythmic dialogue plays out between lattice and accumulations of organic, free-spirited marks in rich tones of red, orange, yellow and white, with a forceful density that is simultaneously philosophical and exuberant.
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