Alan Davie

Entrance for a Red Temple No. 1


Not on display

Alan Davie 1920–2014
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2134 × 1727 mm
Purchased 1961

Display caption

In his early work Davie had accessed a higher level of consciousness through spontaneous or automatic painting. By the 1960s, as in this painting, he referred to this higher state by including emblems and signs associated with Zen Buddhism and magic.

This picture went through countless transformations before arriving at its final state. These hidden layers can be seen throughout the picture, perhaps suggesting levels of consciousness. Davie has described the picture as ‘an immobile and timeless frontal object of meditation, or an evocative invitation to enter, like the entrance to a place of worship’.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Inscr. ‘Entrance for a Red Temple No.1. Alan Davie June 1960 84×68’ on back of canvas.
Canvas, 84×68 (213·5×173).
Purchased from Mrs Alan Davie (Grant-in-Aid) 1961.
Exh: Gimpel Fils, March 1961 (6, repr. in colour).
Lit: Robert Melville, ‘Alan Davie’ in Motif, VII, summer 1961, p.20, repr. p.23 (in colour).
Repr: Studio, CLXIII, 1962, p.8 (in colour); Michael Horovitz, Alan Davie, 1963, n.p.

The artist wrote (13 May 1961) that the picture had been painted in Hertford, where he lives, and that he later did a series of smaller pictures on the same theme by way of a study of the image, which he found disturbing. These were studies from it, not for it. ‘The history of the picture goes back into the indeterminate past, beginning as far as I can remember, some three years ago. ... I can remember at one stage there was some kind of mystical boat which eventually changed into a witch on wheels. The witch disappeared in a mass of multicoloured liquid and finally turned upside down, a part of her wheels still remains in the top-right of the picture.... The final picture of course contains the essence of all the countless transformations, and remains an immobile and timeless frontal object of meditation, or an evocative invitation to enter, like the entrance to a place of worship.’

Robert Melville (loc. cit.) points out the influence of Zen Buddhism, as well as of magic and primitive signs, on Davie's paintings and sees the serpent motif in the wheel of life and above the arch of the temple.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I


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