Information is not knowledge - Albert Einstein
Tony Davis is an artist and designer (b. 1961) whose work explores relationships between ideas & language, people & places, and objects which interact with these. He is also interested in culturally persistent and resonant themes: books, music, film, and lost and found objects, sense of place, and memory. He currently trying to avoid the words interdisciplinary, modality, and methodologies.
For the last 7 years he has been making work inspired by Nature with ablackbirdsang.com. For the last 2 years he has been exploring dialect and the names of flora and fauna with a view to making more poetry (short and long form).
Some ongoing art projects include: OS – Real or Imagined, a series of altered maps based on Ordnance Survey’s 1:50k mapping of the British Isles; These are the Hands, a residency at Oxford’s University Hospitals exploring the relationship between carers and the patient; Artist Assistants, Art created by unknown people; Gant (but not forgotten), lost gloves now found; Signposts for the Imagination, real roadsigns in aluminium and vinyl; The Encyclopedia of Tony, a complete history of my life assembled from memory, etc…
His design projects include: Elemensus, a brand-new way of playing words and learning the Periodic Table of Chemistry at the same time; Penguin Designs, a translation of the classic 1935 Edward Young paperback design into a range of iconic objects for life; Fuse, a light based on the prosaic nature of the humble fuse.
He studied Information Design & Illustration at De Montfort University, Leicester, UK and spent one year on the MA Information Design course at the Royal College of Art (RCA). At the RCA he created early experimental computer-based work, writing in BASIC for the BBC Micro (under occasional supervision of Ken Garland. He created his first digital paint and image capture experiments with Brian Reffin Smith.
He was the first person with his genetic make-up to use a pencil and paints. He was also one of the first users of Apple’s Macintosh computer (1985) and has experimented with digital tools ever since. He created a floppy disk based portfolio in 1986 before anyone had the means to read it. His technology experience lead to building a design and technology consultancy practice. He also lectured at Loughborough University and DeMontfort University. As a result of his skills he was headhunted to work in three quite distinct industries (Print&Repro – Scitex, Video – Quantel, and Computing – Apple, Inc). All three companies were world leaders in use of technology for creative ends. The boundaries of these once distinct industries are now all blurred but this has left Tony distinctly focused.
In 2002 he founded Art Meets Matter Ltd to create the things he’d previously only thought about. He designed one of the most successful projects based on the now classic Penguin paperback designed in 1935. In 2012 he founded Impossible Things Ltd to create and explore virtual projects and ideas and develop his studio practice as an Artist.
Althought a great deal of his work has ended up being sold in large quantities the primary motivation for creating it was the germ of a small idea. If he lived by any motto it would be William Blake’s…
“I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.”
He has lived and worked in London and Brussels. Born in Peterborough he currently lives and works northwest of Oxford, UK (and online, of course).
Are you an Artist or a Designer?
Ah. The old question. We’ve sliced our culture so thinly and roles so narrowly that we can’t seem to accept these titles can co-exist. The former is (supposedly) about freedom of expression and unique vision unshackled by commercial or practical considerations, the latter about solving problems (largely) for another person or organisation. It’s only 30 years ago we called designers ‘commercial artists’. Why can’t they both define me? Why can’t they both be vital in the creative process? I am happy moving between these worlds depending on circumstance, need, and the imperative of the work.
Do you prefer to work digitally or with ‘real’ tools?
It’s worth noting that the word Technology has interesting and relevant roots: early 17th century: from Greek tekhnologia ‘systematic treatment’, from tekhnē ‘art, craft’ + -logia. Systematic. Art. Craft. All key words for an Artist and a Designer. However, as the more things move towards ‘digital’ the more appealing tactility becomes. We need ‘online’ to keep in touch but we need to be in touch with the tangible to stay human. I don’t see a distinction creatively but there is a danger of ‘thinness’ solely working in pixels and online. It needs the flesh of real molecules, the smell of paint, the roughness of imperfection for us to truly appreciate it, I think.
Do you give talks or workshops?
I love talking to anyone (schools, higher ed, businesses) about art, design, the process of creativity, making/re-making, and cultivating entrepreneurial spirit.
Do you accept commissions for new work?
Of course. But I need to feel that I can make a difference.
Is your work for sale?
It depends. Many of the things I’ve made no longer exist (or are experimental and/or unpublished), except as part of unknown people’s homes and galleries.
Do you create site-specific Art installations?
Yes. See Lilliputians at Work series for an example.
Can I hire you to design for me?
It depends. If you’re not involved in anything which is suspect or unethical then of course. Email me to discuss your project and we’ll go from there.
Do you offer internships?
Sorry. Not at the moment.
Can I interview you for a school project?
Of course. You’re the next generation. Give me 7 questions and I’ll give you 7 answers.
Which other Creative people inspire you?
So many I could name but across the centuries for starters take a look at: Alan Fletcher, Helen Chadwick, Richard Hamilton, Jenny Holzer, Marcus Aurelius, Stephen Fry, William Blake, Jonathan Harris, Tom Phillips….