Davida Allen

In the Moment

Griffith University Art Museum, Brisbane.

review by Louise Martin-Chew

Is an artist’s life relevant to their work? It is one of the questions about which there is endless argument in critical circles. For some artists, who make art driven by theory, the relationship may be distant. In the hands of others, the life and the art have a clear symbiosis. Davida Allen is one such artist. A personal antipathy to theoretical positions has not impacted her career, which has ticked every achievement box available to an Australian artist, and reflects personal priorities which include wife, mother, medical practice manager and now grandmother. Central to all of these has been the expression in paint, with often scarifying honesty, of the realities and fantasies of her life.

It is hard to believe that Allen is in her sixties. What remains irrepressibly youthful about her painting is its wholehearted expressive character of her life over four decades, “in the moment”, as the title of the recent Griffith University Art Museum survey, Davida Allen: In the Moment suggests. Her openness is often uncomfortable in its exposure of the messiness of motherhood, sexuality, family and fantasy. This exhibition acknowledged her significance as an Australian artist and her little-recognised involvement in international dialogues, beautifully articulated by curator Angela Goddard in the accompanying catalogue. Despite, perhaps because of, her location outside fashion and the academy, she has been noticed – not the least because her commitment to this stylistic mode and subject matter drawn from her immediate environment is unwavering. At high school she remembers her art ... Subscribe to read this article in full

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