Austin Davies (1926-2012)
Austin Davies (1926-2012). Painted and teacher born in Liverpool, which was the focus of his career. Studied at Liverpool School of Art 1946-51 with Arthur Ballard and Martin Bell. He graduated, did some travelling in war-torn Europe and completed an interior design course. By this time, the 27-year-old Davies was earning a reputation as one of Britain's best up-and-coming Expressionists, but "I was tired of being penniless", so he accepted the offer of a fulltime lectureship at his old art school. It was Davies's enthusiasm for theatre that led him to the Liverpool Playhouse, where he encountered a young actress called Beryl - now Dame Beryl Bainbridge, the acclaimed novelist. A relationship soon developed, followed by marriage in 1954 and two children. Davies's portrait of Bainbridge from this period ("Portrait of the Painter's Wife") still hangs in Manchester City Art Gallery. Davies was a prominant exhibitor in the Liverpool Academy in the 1950's often showing taut, gritty pictures of the city. He painted a notable portrait of the local Member of Parliament Mrs Bessie Braddock and Davies' portrait of his wife, the novelist Beryl Bainbridge is in the collection at the Manchester City Art Gallery. Davies also showed at Arts Council, AIA, public galleries in Salford and Newcastel upon Tyne and had several one man shows including Picadilly Gallery and Coombs Contemporary, 1997. Abstract painting, Forms on a Horizontal Surface - Manchester City Art Gallery and The Forest Fungus - Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool can still be seen. After some financial difficultities, Davies moved to Auckland New Zealand in 1975 with his second Wife Belinda, a Kiwi. He has probably been better known as the director of Nelson's Suter Gallery than as an artist. Yet, in a little-known previous life, Davies was a celebrated rising star of the British art scene. Looking back on his life, Davies acknowledged that the need to earn a living had always come first, so his career in art administration has meant long periods of nil artistic output. But retirement allowed him to become a fulltime painter for the first time in 60 years, and work since then suggested that his muse retained both freshness and vigour. Davies cited the work of Abstract Expressionists like Tapies and Rauschenberg as influences and enthused over the Kiwi icons Hotere, McCahon and Woollaston. For his 80th birthday a retrospective was held at the Suter - a rare opportunity to view 60 years of excellence from an artist and art administrator whose innovation and dedication have enriched both the British and the New Zealand art scenes.