My paintings investigate the humorous intersection of the natural and artificial within the theater of daily life. Utilizing space and scale to accentuate the juxtaposition of the mundane and the mysterious, these works present the absurd as both subject and object. Occupying the space between history and technology these elusive narratives reveal the personal as universal by making the familiar fantastical.
What is some worthy advice you have been given?
My professor of Introductory Painting in college advised not to be precious with what one does or makes. Much later, another teacher said to go forward in life as an art maker with trust in one’s self and without fear; and that art making, of any sort, involves, at least a fair amount, of risk.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.”—Lao Tzu
“Life is transformation; all that is good is transformation and all that is bad as well.”—Rainer Maria Rilke
“The world’s order is ambiguous.”—Albert Camus
“All things were new; and all creation gave another smell unto me than before; beyond what words can utter.”—George Fox
What cracks you up?
Woody Allen, penguins, and cartoons about penguins.
What freaks you out?
The Pacific trash pile. Twice the size of Texas!
What annoys you?
The drone of leaf blowers and weed eaters both do a good job of disrupting my chi. Prolonged usage in the neighborhood makes me consider taking a trip to the funny farm.
What surprises you?
People’s attempts at multitasking. How well are we opening a door or bicycling or eating if we are also messaging our friends?
What music are you currently listening to?
Simian Mobile Disco’s Whorl. The War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream and anything by Lonnie Johnson.
What books are you currently reading?
I just finished Cormac McCarthy’s, The Crossing and Haruki Murakami’s collection of short stories, entitled “After the Quake”. Next on the docket is Shakespeare’s Richard III and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove.
In your two paintings “Blue” and “Traffic Control”, you’re clearly playing with scale and space. Could you elaborate on how this idea came to be, or was it simply offering your viewers an original view of looking at these objects in a humorous way? I know the first time I saw them, a huge smile spread across my face.
My life and practice are intertwined with past and present place; growing up in rural Virginia and living in the Lowcountry: land, water, and big-open skies; timeless elements that inspire and lend me perspective on the often uneasy interaction between humankind and the Earth. My use of space and scale is wed to my surroundings; playing with these design principles permits a freedom that traditional representation does not. My emphasis on the relationships between things—one to another—and the space they occupy allows for a mixture of narrative ambiguity and humor.
The red blood cell diagram in “Blue” is incredibly detailed, especially each little letter that looks like an old typewriter font. Was that somewhat painful for you to do, as far as keeping your hand steady? I’m always blown away by what painters can do with tiny brushes.
That particular part of “Blue” was an exercise in patience. Tiny brushes are essential tools in my process. I think of the production of my paintings as large investments in little things. I succeeded in rendering a typewriter font for the joke of not really being able to read it from afar. But then, everything about that painting is tongue in cheek.
Your “Botanical” series is just lovely. I would assume you’re curious about plants/ botany/ the natural world? Could you elaborate a little here?
I am enthralled by nature. Nature is my church. I love nothing better than the skip town for the day and hit the trails at Francis Marion National Forest or one of the area DNR managed properties. The leaf specimens I use are often from these trips. I think of the paintings from the series as little memorials or odes to these fragile and temporal forms.
You have taught drawing classes at places like the Gibbes Museum of Art and Redux Contemporary Art Center, both in Charleston, SC. I was wondering how your drawing skills intersect with your painting?
For me, drawing is essential to the painting process. I depend on fairly detailed renderings of leaves, spacecraft, ostriches, or any other object of interest. My drawings may serve as studies for a series such as the Botanicals or as conceptual blueprints for larger pieces.
Did you have a teacher or mentor who helped you discover your artistic talents or was it kind of a slow organic process that you shaped on your own? Just wondering if you were the guy in 5th grade who was constantly sketching in all his notebooks?
My mother bought drawing books for me to practice with. They were instructional manuals. “Here is how to draw a pelican steps one through four.” My high school art teacher was a saving grace. She had us kid drawing all the time! Her motto was “Style with discipline.” And then there was Jon Michel, my drawing professor at the College of Charleston. His motto might have been more like “Discipline with more discipline.” Much of his class at the time was devoted to drawing cardboard boxes in various arrangements. Nothing teaches students line, proportion, scale, and the healing power of Bourbon like drawing a box with precision.
Your living space and studio space are just special— just quietly and humbly special. I’m fascinated by how we define our spaces. Can you tell us about some of your favorite things in there?
My home is my sanctuary and so my studio is my sanctum sanctorum. It is the coolest room in the summer and warmest in the winter; two windows that open to eastern sea breezes and a warm flood of sunlight; a work spa. And over the years I have had the pleasure of shaping the small lawn and garden behind the house where I live. From this I have learned that, when digging anywhere on the Peninsula, odds favor an archeological find of one kind or another. The ground gives up eighteenth or early nineteenth century porcelain every time I work it. I have saved everything I have found and show the fragments in display jars in my living room. I see them when I wake in the morning and when I go to bed at night; when I come and when I go. The past is present in a very real way, all around, every day.
Townsend Davidson, born in Childress, Virginia in 1979, received his BA from the College of Charleston in Studio Art and Art History. Davidson attended the Maine Photographic Workshops and Penland School of Crafts. The artist was selected for Under the Radar, an exhibition of emerging artists organized by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art and Charleston Magazine. Davidson has exhibited at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Redux Contemporary Art Center, and the City Gallery at Waterfront Park, all of which are in Charleston, SC. His work is included in the Contemporary Carolina Collection at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Presently, Townsend is employed by the College of Charleston as a photography lab technician and as a drawing instructor for the Gibbes Museum of Art as well, as for Redux Contemporary Art Center.
In April of 2015, Townsend received an Honorable Mention for his piece, “Supercritical Flow” (available for sale on this site) at ART FIELDS in Lake City, SC. Here’s an article from the Charleston Magazine, where he was featured: http://charlestonmag.com/features/natural_wonderer
Link to his personal website here.