About Martin Davis

what I paint always has an element of an ideal; a painted apple always carries the seed of how I have previously learned to see an apple.

I am an ex-firefighter from Derbyshire, UK. I was born and raised in Shirebrook, a large mining village in the Derbyshire coalfields. Mining was then big industry & the backbone of the community and growing up in that culture I never really considered art as a feasible career. I’ve always painted and drawn but as a result I did something else with the first part of my working life and art has become my private passion ever since.

I graduated in Economics from the University of Birmingham in 1976 but, after a brief spell in finance, I changed track and completed over 30 years in the UK fire and rescue service. Although I never really stopped painting entirely I only turned fully to art after my retirement in 2008. Only then, having already brought up a family and completed one demanding career, could I find the time I needed to devote to it.

As an artist I am almost  entirely self-taught with no formal training beyond school, and I still consider myself just a student practicing my art - I probably always will. I may never reach the point when I feel I can say "Now I am an artist" but then my art has always been more about process than end product -so I am comfortable with that. If there is an end point to my journey it would be when I have developed a signature style that is recognisably my own and one that encompasses the best art I can produce.

Painting for me is a kind of ecstasy, an intense & often personal struggle to bring to life a world of accumulated memory & images. It is at once both exhausting and exhilarating and I have no idea why I’m driven to do it. But for any of it to mean something to someone else, or to give them some lasting pleasure is the ultimate payback. I always try and exhibit because I love people to see my work...... but it's not the reason I paint, it never was. Painting just calms my soul, it's my private world.

My work is wide ranging, though at any given moment there will usually be a focus on one genre or another. I’ve never liked the idea of putting art into different pre-determined boxes, but whether it’s fantastical or mundane I paint through the prism of memory. Cognition & memory is central in my approach to art, it’s how we learn to see anything. Observing “art” as with anything else never takes place in a vacuum. It is influenced by the particular background of the observer, conditioned by their own specific history  of visual experiences. As an artist I feel what I paint always has an element of an ideal; a painted apple always carries the seed of how I have previously learned to see an apple – in short my memory. The beauty of this is that while we all see the same things, we see them differently. If I paint how I see it will often prompt a response or reaction in others.  For me no response at all would be the death knell for my art.

Generally inspiration for my work is two-sided; (1) my emotional response to words is very important to me and (2) visually I am moved by the effects of light on colour and form. Direct influences and inspiration for specific paintings though often arise from images (or words or phrases – especially from poetry) in current affairs and the world around me. This is especially true if they strike a chord with my own past or trigger distant personal memories. My imagination can be fired by the unexpected in everyday things, or by a memory. Sometimes just part of a remembered image - maybe something simple like sunlight playing on a hat brim - can be enough. There is a certain strength or beauty inside everything if you look hard enough – it doesn't have to be something intrinsically pretty, or attractive or especially worthy of attention. Quite often it is better if it isn't.

I try to use my sense of colour and love of form to raise the spirits. One of my abiding hopes is that - like music - art can serve to engender a greater sense of wellbeing, in observer and creator alike. I believe at its best it can be a simple, joyful experience as well as a vehicle for asking more difficult & fundamental questions about what it means to be human.

I hope you enjoy my work and return often to see how it develops. In the meantime you can see examples of my work at the following galleries;

Leabrooks Arts Complex, Somercotes, Derbys

Cromford Art Gallery, Cromford, Derbys

St John Street Gallery, Ashbourne, Derbys


Feb/March 2021 - Emerging Artist Award, Creates Gallery, Monmouth

Nov/Dec 2020 - ING Discerning Eye, virtual exhibition only

Aug - Nov 2020 - Harley Open 2020, The Harley Gallery, Welbeck, Notts

Nov 2019 - Great Sheffield Art Show 2019, Open exhibition, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield.

Jan-Feb 2019 - Trees & Water, solo exhibition, West Studios, Sheffield Road, Chesterfield

Feb-March 2018 - "Behind the smile" group exhibition, Banks Mill Studios, Derby

December 2017 - Derbyshire Artists Guild, Inaugural Group Exhibition, Baslow, Derbys

November 2017 - Shortlisted Columbia Threadneedle Prize, London

November 2017 - Great Sheffield Art Show, Millenium Gallery, Sheffield

September 2017 - "Figure", 4th solo exhibition Leabrooks Arts Complex, Alfreton, Derbys

July 2017 - Buxton Spa Prize Exhibition, Green Man Gallery, Buxton, Derbys

2017 - Pentrich Revolution Bicentenary Group Exhibitions, various locations throughout Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire

October 2016 - "Still lifes, figures & landscapes....what else is there?", 3rd solo exhibition, Leabrooks Arts Complex, Alfreton, Derbyshire

August/September 2016 - work selected for "Midlands Open Art Exhibition", Tarpey Gallery, High Street, Castle Donington, Derby DE74 2PQ

April 2016 – "Looking to the stars" Group Exhibition, Brick Lane Gallery Annexe, London (Hornshaw Gallery).

March 2015 - "Paint it black", Leabrooks Arts Complex, Leabrooks Road, Alfreton, Derbys (a further solo exhibition is planned for October 2016).

April 2014 – "From firefighter to artist" 1st Solo Exhibition, Rainbow Gallery, DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, Eastwood, Nottingham.

December 2013 – "Smoking Inside", Group Exhibition, Sara Twomey Gallery, 11 Harbour Exchange, Docklands, E14 9GE, London.

November 2013 – Winter Inspirations Group Exhibition, Rainbow Gallery, DH Lawrence Heritage Centre, Eastwood, Nottingham.

2012 – shortlisted National Open Art Competition, Chichester.

2011 – shortlisted Saatchi Online Showdown competition.

2010 – shortlisted National Art of Giving Competition, Saatchi Gallery, London.