At the time of his death in 1999, John Davis had established a critically acclaimed reputation as an influential sculptor and installation artist whose practice synthesised material diversity with an idiosyncratic concept of landscape and ecology. Born in Ballarat, Victoria, on 16 September 1936, John Frederick Davis completed an Associate Diploma of Sculpture at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1966, and from 1967 to 1971 taught Sculpture and 3-D Design at Caulfield Institute of Technology. In 1972 Davis travelled in Europe and America before returning to Australia the following year to take up the position of Lecturer in Sculpture at Prahran College of Advanced Education. In subsequent years Davis was a senior faculty member at the Victorian College of the Arts and continued to travel widely and exhibit regularly in America, Japan and Australia. Davis was awarded a number of prizes, the most important being his winning entry in the 1970 Comalco Invitation Award for sculpture in aluminium. He participated in the inaugural Mildura Sculpture Triennial, and he represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1978. Davis was the first artist whose work was profiled, in 1978, in the NGV Survey series.
Davis initially worked in wood and later in fibreglass and aluminium, becoming known for his multiples and for his distinctive formalist style. By 1973, Davis had become increasingly interested in conceptual, process-based and land art practices, and his mature works reflect his sensitivity to elemental forces, the organic world, and his profound connection to the ecological fragility and beauty of landscape.
By working closely with the artist’s estate, the exhibition will chart Davis’s development as an artist, with particular focus on his interest in found and fragile organic materials, and the powerful evocation of the landscape that is at the core of his work.