For his upcoming solo show opening at Escondido's Distinction Gallery (317 E. Grand Ave.) at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 9, artist Shay Davis has painted his modernized take on the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues.
The piece on the cover of CityBeat this week, “Pride,” was one of the first paintings Davis (shayvision.com) did in the new series. He says the idea for it literally came to him in his sleep.
“I had a vision where this pride of lions with this ringleader lady crashed into Wall Street and just started cleaning house on some of these stock-market guys,” he says.
That was a few years ago, right before the big economic crash, and the piece took him awhile to finish. By the time he added the last touches, the downturn was in full swing and news was just starting to come out about Wall Street investment bankers continuing to receive huge bonuses despite the big bailouts and the sad state of the economy.
Needless to say, he thinks the piece is pretty fitting for the “pride” vice. In the background of the painting, which has been cropped to fit the cover, a few brokers leap to their death and one is about to be torn apart by a lion.
The content and characters in Davis' new works are all contemporary and current. He sets his central figures against a highly symbolic, surrealistic backdrop, where seemingly anything can happen.
He's a pop-surrealist painter, to be sure, but his skill and style are reminiscent of more traditional painters. In fact, the 30-something artist says he's as inspired by the 17th-century Flemish Baroque painter Peter Paul Rubens as he is by modern artists like Savador Dalí.
Davis went to art school, but he says he's learned more by reading about the masters and going to museums and studying their work in person. Then there's hands-on experimentation, which he's been doing with oils on canvas since the 10th grade.
“I did a lot of cubism, surrealism and kind of mixed and matched them,” Davis says. “I'd say that, in the last four years, I've really tried to step it up and find my own style, which is this modern take on surrealism, really focusing and working on my technique.”
The hard work seems to be paying off. This week, not only is Davis opening his solo show; he's also the focus of a new documentary, Shayvision, which screens at 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 8, at the Birch North Park Theatre (2891 University Ave.). The film discusses the broader pop-surrealist movement and how Davis' work both fits in and differs from the genre. Davis says he's yet to see the final version.
“It will be cool to see it for the first time on the big screen,” Davis says.