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#SundaySong: Alan Davie

This Sunday, we feature a song called “Alan Davie,” from the 2017 jazz album, Modern Art, by Swiss drummer Daniel Humair, French bassist Stéphane Kerecki, and French saxophonist Vincent Lê Quang. This playful album features songs named after several 20th century painters. The jazz trio either already had a composition that matched up with the pictorial world of a certain artist, or they have written an original composition inspired by an artist’s work.

While the album is full of gems, the song,”Alan Davie,” is probably my favorite of the bunch, and not just because Scottish artist Alan Davie’s work is in the McClung Museum’s eclectic print collection. The song reminds me of jazz great John Coltrane’s cool, sophisticated calm on A Love Supreme.

The McClung Museum has four of Davies’ ten prints from the Foxwatch series, which was created in 1970, and is quite emblematic of the artist’s work.

Alan Davie (1920–2014) used moons, snakes, ladders, hearts, and other symbols suggesting human figures and African masks in the Foxwatch series. The eclectic imagery demonstrates Davie’s unique visual vocabulary. He began his artistic career as a jazz musician, the influence of which is seen in his expressive art. 

Alan Davie with some of his paintings

Alan Davie with some of his paintings, by The Print Studio, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

He embraced the instinctual use of color and freedom of form employed by multiple art movements post–World War II, including Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism, but came up with his own individual form of symbolic expression, and was also inspired by art from Africa and the Pacific, as well as Zen Buddhism.

Davie’s signs and symbols were not meant to be logically interpreted, but to serve as a means—much like the practice of meditation—to “arouse . . . direct knowledge by intuition.” 

Davie was not just an artist, but also a self-described musician, poet, and jewelry designer. Davie’s own avant-garde jazz music isn’t readily accessible online, but you can see a full discography here, and check out the following trailer from new film, Alan Davie: An Excess of Energy, by filmmaker Justin Krish, below.