The Conversation

preview 10 November 2017

Holly Davey, `I ventured out`, archival postcards, 2017.
Holly Davey, `I ventured out`, archival postcards, 2017.
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A buff foolscap folder is the starting point for The Conversation, a solo show by Holly Davey. Inherited by the artist, the folder contains fragments of a lifetime – photographs, scraps of paper, postcards, a paper bag, an exhibition catalogue and other mementos.

In the entrance to the main exhibition space the folder is tantalisingly displayed and inaccessible to the viewer. It is the source of everything we can see beyond – a spotlit staged interpretation of the research. These resulting works stretch their connection with this material almost to breaking point – the blue sky on postcards provide Davey with a template for a landscape and a wallet of sequential photographs allow a retracing of a journey from Los Angeles to Sacramento to be re-drawn.

The whole show is a stage set, a re-creation of a place that is neither totally in the present moment - as it refers back to archive material - nor is it entirely there, in the file. First we experience a series of cut outs propped up against the wall, latent, waiting, ready to be used in creating the landscape beyond. Stepping into the exhibition space, the viewer is both behind the scenes as well as in them as they walk from place to place. In amongst them is the sound and texture of the past, an echo of a memory from the future; There are lighting gels and props, soundtracks that we can’t locate, projections and films that come and go. In this place, the idea of the archive as a static, fixed truth is taken apart piece by piece and merged with a fantasy. Drawing our eye to the back wall of the gallery is a large-scale projection of a found footage clip taken at a Universal studio tour. In the clip, a stuntman on the set of a mock Western building runs across the top, steadies himself and then falls, apparently shot. This endless loop plays over and over, again and again we watch the same piece of footage, the same run, stop, adjust, shoot, fall as before. But this stuntman was employed to do this, every day, every hour. He is a player in the archive.

All the journeys the artist takes away from the content of this file can only return to it. They go between the man who owns the file to the woman that inherited it. One half of the conversation is evolving through this work, but the other half is fixed, stopped and recorded. He closed the file. She opened it.

On their own this collection of objects is an incomplete archive: in between are the gaps, the pauses. It is the silences that are the most revealing, where object and memory come together to form an imagined reality. The remembered becomes the lived present, reality shifts and time collapses to make the forgotten visible. As it unravels, there is no map, no point B, just a series of fragments that when placed together form a reimagined whole, an archive of a life.

Holly Davey has been Supported by Swansea College of Art, University of Wales Trinity Saint David & a production grant from the Arts Council Of Wales. With thanks to Chris Brown, Sam Hasler, Hannah Firth, Toby Nelmes, Richard Robinson, Anthony Shapland and AJ Stockwell.

A series of ten photographs taken by my grandfather in 1972 describe a journey from Los Angeles to Sacramento. Architecture and nature seem to mostly describe the trip. There are no people in the images apart from a man falling from a building. As I stare at this figure, I wonder who he is? how old is he? is he still alive? and more importantly, what does it feel like to be falling through the air?
Freedom. Fear.
I begin to fill in an imaged past for each of these pictures, creating an invented story for each place. I work through them like a detective. The house from Psycho, the tallest building in San Francisco, a cinema, an art museum, a city hall, a tree. And so, the conversation begins.

  • Holly Davey, `The Fall` (installation shot), 2017. Found Video footage projection from universal studio tour 1972 from YouTube
  • Holly Davey, R- `Untitled (Athens, Louth, Marken, Ronda)` (detail), plywood, Scarlet 24 lighting gel, 2017; L - `OHP: Untitled`, Over Head Projection collages, 2017.
  • Holly Davey, `Flats 1 – 9` (detail), plywood, 2017
  • Holly Davey, `The Conversation` installation shot at g39, 2017.
  • Holly Davey, `Psycho meets Picasso`, handmade clay replicas of Picasso sculptures and 35mm slide, 2017.
  • Holly Davey, `Untitled (Blue)`, Sky Blue 68 lighting gel, 2017
  • Holly Davey, `The Conversation` installation shot at g39, 2017.
  • Holly Davey, L- `Silence has Another Way of Telling`, archival file, 2017; R- `Flats 1 – 9`, plywood, 2017
  • Holly Davey, `I ventured out`, archival postcards, 2017.