Faeries have their day in TM Davy’s Art

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Walking into Company Gallery late last summer in Soho felt like entering a faerie world. On a random Wednesday, I entered the gallery to find an artist. TM DavyThe artist titled “The Color Explosion” has a friend sitting on a vibrant array blankets, playing instruments and soaking up the colors of his paintings. Fae. The paintings depicted mysterious caves, gremlins-like creatures and ethereal, glowing light.

The hidden world he has brought into the light captivated me as I explored the grotto-like scenes inspired by 1980s and ’90s pop culture and close-ups of faerie-like figures that look as influenced by classic Calvin Klein ads as they are by fantasy portraits. I asked the artist for more information about his practice. It embraces a kind of glorious and vintage faggotry, which feels very much like the present moment, of healing, mending and fantasy.

Details of two paintings by TM Davy, left, “heart song” (2023) and, right, “a little splashing” (2023)

Hyperallergic: What would you say about your exhibition to someone that has never seen it before? 

TM Davy:Entering Company Gallery [you see]A small green faerie pops in from a portal. A tiny monster is happy we are here. The main room is flanked by vine-covered columns with chromatic faerie caverns. Above, pine tree gardens are supported by the faeries. A faerie of human size waves a wand in front of us as a circle with butterfly-winged creatures sings. A variety of winged little ones play, run, rest and are encouraged to fly by smaller faeries. The room is filled with mystic caves that vary in size and color, each one capturing a specific moment. Blue faerie made it home. Red Satyr is smoking a joint. There is dancing, floating, gazing in, posing and picking flowers. The vibration of love. Transmuted awareness creates eyes through a game of form, color, and material expression. A mossy harp and a stoned sundrum rest on the floor. Some days, groups with moving bodies gather to play in the room.

Hyperallergic: You spoke about the figures in your paintings as “parts” of you. Could you tell us a bit more about this? 

TMD: When you work from imagination, you can bring so much to life. I could see a friend or sister in a faerie’s gesture, or an old crush in their eyes. Sometimes, a heartbreak or a difficult emotion or unresolved memories appear. The process is to feel the fae. Yellow Satyr began as an abstract attraction. He was hot, but he also shared a trigger for judgment or distrust. Then, somehow, [he became]A likeness of my best friend from middle school. I remember we drew magic together and then drifted apart. We last met on a summer vacation home from college while wandering around town. Some of his friends heard us talking. One called me “faggot.” I wasn’t out yet, but I was lost. “So what if I am?” I say, “Why does it bother you?” Then he violently attacked me. Twenty-six Years after the friend ghosted [me]Yellow Satyr wants me to integrate the score. The painting was still sad, so I searched for my old friend on Instagram. He calls me, and forever apologizes. It’s like a fantasy that we both have realized. Yellow Satyr then changes again. He becomes gentler with me and softens to become a lover outside of time. I tattooed tiny monsters tamed on faer shoulders and protective faeries protecting faer necks, with a sun smiling over faer eyelids.  

TM Davy’s “tunnel of love” (2023) and “faerie friend” (2023)

Hyperallergic: What do you consider a faerie cavern? That’s a term you have used to explain the cavernous spaces in your work. Can you explain this?

TMD: The cave is a somatic haven — a home base for faerie teller consciousness. This work included visualizing the breath as a witness inspired by emotion traveling into a physical body. Follow the insights to a loop using painting. It was a wonderful discovery to discover that linseed and bright colors could reveal faeries caves in the wood grain planters. My family has a long-standing tradition of honoring the fairies in the knots of large trees.

Hyperallergic: What is the role gender and sexuality in this show? You quote from Larry Mitchell’s The Faggots & Their Friends Between Revolutions(1977), arguing for an antiassimilationist approach to sexual diversity. I’m curious if that represents your perspective. 

TMD: Candy StoreWritten by The textI love the writing of Shimher. This is a book that we both love. Hello Ned!Ramrod is a place where things are tight and loose. But the fairies understand that a diverse ecosystem is essential to a sustainable eco-system. We’ve got to keep each other alive. The works in FaeI feel fae gendered to me, an enchanting non-dual embodiment.

Details of the Gremlin-like figures in, left, “lucid dreamer” (2023) and, right, “tiny monster” (2023)

Hyperallergic:Your work is infused with symbolism. Even the way you use colour has a strong message. What role does symbolism play in your artwork? 

TMD: Students of realism understand how internal symbols are projected into the observational depiction an external world. Realist meditation involves observing visual phenomena that are separate from unconscious structures. Electromagnetic spectra play across form and space. We choose where to focus our attention. In a symbolism born of realism, the witnesses begins to focus that same attention on themselves. What image will be revealed? What is projected? Strangely, the symbols seem to become real and transcend when they feel seen. The play of color and light becomes as intimate and mysterious.

Hyperallergic:Hollywood movies from the 1970s and 80s clearly influenced your work. I would say Gremlins, Star Wars, Neverending Story are the first to pop to mind, but I’d love to hear you talk about these influences. Are there any others? 

TMD: There’s something about a monomythic quest. I’ve listened to Joseph Campbell enough to see how these stories chart my unconscious realm with their magic ones. Jim Henson had a genius for the heart. The breathwork that Mr. Miyagi instructs in Karate Kid IIIt was beautiful when I was a child, but I lost it as a teenager. In recent years, I was able to save myself again by rediscovering conscious breath. A satyr briefly transformed into Ralph Macchio in memory of our first teacher. It dawned on me that my recurring grotto dream was first inspired by Big Bird Goes ChinaI was born very young. Superman in his fortress of solitude. Labyrinth. Dark Crystal. [My Neighbor] Totoro. Too many to know the limit of influence. But I’m grateful to the avatars and magic friends.

One of the painted planters Fae beside “heart song” (2023)

Hyperallergic: What about painting speaks to you? Was it the perfect medium for your work? 

TMD: Painting is my first love language. I work into the caves like I’m tapping a song in myself. Much of the work involves conjuring light out of matter and letting that radiate into an open, awake feeling in the room. It’s a way to be in touch.


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