Cover image of the review
Isabel Davies, *Square variations*, 2017–2019, mixed media, various dimensions. © Isabel Davies

Isabel Davies: Recent Geometric Constructions

18 May 2019
Stephen McLaughlan Gallery 1 May - 18 May 2019

The 90-year-old Melbourne artist Isabel Davies is meticulous; you can tell from her website. On the internet, Davies has self-curated images of her work into a mighty retrospective exhibition. In her ‘about the artist’ section, she features organised binders of archival documents—neat, plastic-sleeved press clippings—as well as candid photographs of her aged hands cutting, tearing and arranging collage elements. Collage and assemblage have been Davies’ mediums since she turned 40. At that point in her life, she had studied painting at the National Gallery School (as what we would now call a mature-aged student), had her first solo exhibition in 1969, before radically ditching her John Brack-inspired painting practice for new seventies-cool Melbourne-style constructions.

Isabel DAVIES, Recent geometric constructions, 2017 — 2019, installation view, Stephen McLaughlan Gallery © Isabel Davies. Courtesy Stephen McLaughlan Gallery.

Gallerist Stephen McLaughlan does not represent Davies. This show may be a one-off. McLaughlan has only met the artist two or three times (once was the opening of the exhibition). He tells me how, after the death of her husband, Davies was packing things and found unused materials from her work between 1970 and 1973. These materials, which her husband had cut and prepared for her, included coloured Perspex, Masonite, painted wood, corrugated cardboard and (most strikingly) a very period anodised aluminium. Davies placed her materials in rhythmically “mathematical” ways, and at the time they read as chic and clean. While these parts were cut to riff on the square, the cube and “sections thereof”, it was her cascades of aluminium pyramid-shapes that became Davies’ signature. The artist exhibited these geometric, minimal pieces at Marianne Baillieu’s fashionable Realities Gallery.

To read for free enter your email address.

Log in with your registered email address.

Memo can continue to publish free, quality, and independent weekly art criticism with the support of our readers. Consider becoming a Patreon supporter or making a donation.