Feature Articles

January 2014

Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC, Offers Works by Julyan Davis

The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC, will present Julyan Davis: Appalachian Ballads, on view from Jan. 5 through Mar. 16, 2014. A reception will be held on Jan. 5, from 1-3pm.

In northeastern Greenville County is a region commonly referred to as The Dark Corner, consisting of approximately 150 square miles of rugged, Appalachian terrain. Isolated from the rest of the state, its economy based on its distilleries - in short, moonshining. The Dark Corner is viewed as culturally and politically backward.

But this dark region, with its equally dark stories and songs of murder and violence, embodies the spirit of English-born artist Julyan Davis. Now a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, his series of moody, haunting paintings comprise an exhibition titled Julyan Davis: Appalachian Ballads.

In his artist statement, Davis says he feels a strong connection to Appalachia through the region’s age-old, hauntingly beautiful love songs and murder ballads, many of which originated and were carried over to America by Celtic immigrants who settled the region.

“The songs of this region have given me an old, familiar narrative and a human history that connects to my own background,” Davis writes. “The South wears its passion on its sleeve. It possesses what is referred to as a ‘culture of honor’, which is a gift to any artist, writer or musician.”

Recognizing the universal and enduring stories represented in these ballads, Davis conveys their melancholic mood - most of the songs are full of a longing for escape and often end with a dramatic conclusion - by painting scenes of human isolation and loss in extremely compelling, contemporary Appalachian landscapes.

The exhibit includes more than a dozen large-scale oil paintings, triptychs and smaller works, each named after a lyric from a traditional folk song and/or murder ballad sung for centuries by bluegrass and folk musicians in Appalachia. Among Davis’s landscapes are striking portraits of the inhabitants of this rugged land. At times they are the principal subject; in other works they appear as mere details, offering a contrast between the harshness of life and the wild natural beauty of the landscape.

Davis writes, “The country is one of extravagant colors, of proliferating foliage and bloom, of flooding yellow sunlight, and, above all, perhaps, of haze. Pale blue fog hangs above the valleys in the morning, the atmosphere smokes faintly at midday, and through the long slow afternoon cloud-stacks tower from the horizon and the earth-heat quivers upwards through the iridescent air, blurring every outline and rendering every object vague and problematical.”

Davis is known for his paintings of the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, Western North Carolina and the coast of Maine. His ballad paintings were previously exhibited at the Greenville County (SC) Museum of Art in 2012 and the Morris Museum of Art (Augusta, GA) in 2013. His work is in many private, public and corporate collections including the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, SC, as well as the Greenville County Museum and the Morris Museum.

The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is a wholly nonprofit institution located across from Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach. Components of Museum programs are funded in part by support from the City of Myrtle Beach, the Horry County Council and the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 843/238-2510 or visit (www.MyrtleBeachArtMuseum.org).

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