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 at the time was big industry & the backbone of the community. Growing up in such a traditional culture meant I never really considered art as a feasible career. and so-although I’ve always painted and drawn-I did something else with the first part of my working life. But even so art has always been my private passion.

I graduated in Economics from the University of Birmingham in 1976 but, after a brief spell in finance, I changed tack and completed over 30 years in the UK fire and rescue service. I never really stopped painting completely though but I only turned to art fully 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 - painting can be a draining experience.

As an artist I am almost  entirely self-taught with no formal training beyond school. I still consider myself just a student practicing my art - I probably always will. I may never reach that point when I feel I can say "Now I truly am an artist" - not sure I want to - but my art has always been more about process than end product, so I am comfortable with that. If there is any 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, that's all.

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 do it. But if any of it might mean something to someone else, or give them some lasting pleasure would be the ultimate payback. I always try to exhibit because I want people to see my work ...... but it's not the reason I paint, it never was. Painting just calms my soul. It is essentially a private world.

My work can be wide ranging, though at any given moment there is usually a focus on one genre or another (I’ve never liked the idea of putting art into different pre-determined boxes with labels), but be it fantastical or mundane I paint through the prism of memory.

Cognition & memory is key to my understanding of art. It is after all how we learn to see anything! Observing “art” as with anything else can never take place in a vacuum. It is influenced by the particular background of the observer, conditioned by their own specific history and life experience. I feel that what I paint always carries the seed of an ideal; a painted apple always carries within it the memory of how I have previously learned to see an apple. The beauty of this is that while we all see the same things, we see them differently, so when I paint how I see it often prompts a response or reaction in others.  For me no response at all would be unthinkable for my art.

Inspiration for my work can be twofold; (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, in particular when it creates dramatic contrasts. Direct influences prompting specific paintings often arise through images, words or phrases from 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 in 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's better if it isn't.

I try to use my sense of colour and love of form to raise the spirits. My abiding hope 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 often see examples of my work at the following galleries;

Leabrooks Arts Complex, Somercotes, Derbys

Courtney Gallery , Ashbourne, Derbys

Salon Contemporary Arts, Derby

Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield


November 2023, Fronteer Open, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield

June 2023, Ruth Borchard Collection, Self Portrait prize (highly commended)

June, 2023, Summer Exhibition, Salon Contemporary Arts, Derby

March, 2023, All the small things, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield

February 2023, Meet the locals, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield

December 2022, Fronteer Open, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield

October 2022, Anything but paint, Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield

June 2022, Summer Exhibition, Salon Contemporary Arts, Derby

June - August 2022, RA Summer Exhibition, London

Oct -Dec 2021, Autumn Exhibition, D31 Art Gallery, Doncaster

July-Sept 2021, Summer Exhibition, D31 Art Gallery, Doncaster

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