John Davies



Not on display

John Davies born 1946
Polyester resin, fibreglass and steel
Object: 279 × 178 × 267 mm
Purchased 1972

Display caption

Davies's 'William Jeffrey with Device', also in this display, was cast from life. However, 'Dogman' was originally modelled by the artist in clay. A plaster mould was then made, and from this the head was cast in fibreglass and painted. Both sculptures incorporate what Davies calls a 'device'. Here, this takes the form of a dog-like muzzle which was modelled onto the features of the head. Glass eyes complete the illusion of reality, despite this bizarre appendage. The viewer is thus presented with a paradox: a head which appears both naturalistic and simultaneously fantastic. Davies exploits this disturbing ambiguity to amplify the physical presence of this 'portrait'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

John Davies b.1946

T01577 Dogman 1972

Not inscribed.
Painted polyester resin, fibreglass and inert fillers, 11 x 7 x 10½ (28 x 17.8 x 26.7).
Purchased from the artist through the Whitechapel Art Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1972.
Exh: Whitechapel Art Gallery, June–July (23,repr.).

The following accounts of T01577 and T01578 are based on an interview with the artist on 6 March 1974, and have been approved by him.

‘Dogman’ is a head of a man, originally modelled in clay and then cast into fibreglass. The white base colour is in the resin and oil paints have been used on the surface. The head is supported on a 1 ¼ in. diameter metal pole and stand 68 in. high to bring the head to the spectator’s eye-level. Fixed over the nose of the man is a silvery grey form with a black tip. This form stretches down on either side of the mouth and across the upper cheekbones to behind the ears. Davies calls this construction a ‘device’.

The artist’s sculpture has always been based on the human figure, but since 1967 his life-size figures and heads have become increasingly life-like. Yet he often imposes a ‘device’ in front of the face. He does not intend that the device should be extraordinary or remarkable. It is there simply to make something apparent which is not apparent in its absence and he hopes that the spectator is not aware of the means, the ‘device’. ‘It is to make apparent—not to conceal. It is not a means of deifying or degrading the dignity of the person, often it has the opposite effect.’ The artist added that often the device can affect the eyes and make them seem to look back at the spectator in a certain kind of way, for example defiantly or tenderly, as happens when one encounters a person face to face. Consequently the heads should be seen at eye-level so that the spectator ‘meets’ the head as if it were a person and not an object on a stand.

The title ‘Dogman’ is nonsensical and was given to the sculpture because of the obvious resemblance of the device to a dog’s nose. Davies believes that ‘Dogman’ is not successful because it seems too ‘otherwordly’.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.


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