Flyer Profile: Basil Seymour-Davies

If you missed First Thursday on April 1, you missed live music by Guta on the steps of the Town Center.

You also missed the Great Scotts at Sound Warehouse, the mayor’s proclamation about Nomkhubulwane, and the chance to hang out with 1,000 or so of Fayetteville’s coolest people during the opening of some great art shows.

The good news is, you don’t have to miss an opportunity to check out or purchase some art. Most of it stays on display for up to a month following the opening festivities on First Thursday.

Basil Seymour-Davies is one of the artists whose work is still on display at the Fayetteville Underground’s Vault Gallery this month. Basil specializes in portrait work, inspired by the enormous hand-painted billboards and movie posters he saw during his adolescence in Bangkok, Thailand.

His show “Between You and I” opened on First Thursday, and runs through Saturday, May 1.

We got in touch with Basil, and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us.

Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
Basil Seymour-Davies: I’ve recently been listening to some older Vampire Weekend, and then some Vitalic if I need a little wake-me-up.

FF: Tell us a bit about your show at Fayetteville Underground this month.
BSD: My show reflects a transition from my older larger works that incorporated a narrative background to more recent intensive investigations into the rendering of the facial form. I am currently at a crossroads trying to acquire the technical skills necessary to execute the level of work I have planned for the future. I am hoping that those who visit the show get a feeling of metamorphoses in the collection of works – where I came from and where I am going with it.

Fayetteville Flyer: A lot of the people in your portraits are people you know pretty well, correct? How do you think your connection with the subject affects the piece?
BSD: My connection with the subject is integral to how I thematically or conceptually compose the paintings. It determines the visual elements surrounding the subject, the colors and the general feel. This is something that was more evident in my older pieces and that I will soon integrate again in my work once I am more satisfied with my more technical studies.

FF: What is it about portraits that is compelling for you?
BSD: I can tell you that I was always mesmerized by the enormous hand painted movie billboards in Bangkok, where I lived up to the age of ten. And that my grandmother in England had about a dozen portraits of old family members from centuries past throughout her home that I used to study intently. I was intrigued by how they were rendered; the information that was packed into the limited spaces, and the tidbits of information it suggested about the time, the person and the place.

But there’s really also something else about the human subject that is especially compelling to me that goes beyond my childhood curiosities about the rendered form. Oil paintings outlast the people portrayed in them and do so in a manner that almost lends it an iconic value. And like the photographs of my family members that I still carry around with me, most of whom died years ago in a senseless war, portraits have the potential of becoming a long lasting reminder of who we are long after we are dead. Family snapshots eventually get buried in the attic and fade. But a painted portrait exists among the living for a long time. I am intrigued by this semi permanence and what paintings communicate about a person long after they are gone.

FF: How has your style changed over the years?
BSD: About five years ago I was going for large sizes and graphics culled from popular culture. My figures were far more painterly and less refined which was mainly due to my inability to do well defined details and color. Recently I have challenged myself to improve my technical skills so paintings have been composed in a manner that emphasizes technical improvement rather than concept. I plan to gradually stop obsessing and return to the concepts I explored as an art student five years ago.

FF: How do you feel about the growth and expansion of First Thursday as an event?
BSD: I was involved in the Fayetteville art community in different ways before Fayetteville Underground. But nothing ever had the potential or the scope this organization provides. I think it will take a little more time to see the impact it has on the scene.

I’ve met artists who are new to the area and attend their first Fayetteville Underground event. They are floored to discover that there is such a supportive scene for visual arts in the area. And I think the reaction from art lovers is generally the same when they come to our events for the first time. My hope is that more talented artists will continue to choose to remain in Fayetteville or move to the area and make it their home. Likewise, I hope that art lovers continue to attend our events and that people regionally seek out Fayetteville as a destination for art. This sort of thing takes a lot of time, but I imagine that by the time I am considered among the old timer artists here that Fayetteville will establish itself as a serious place to study, work, view, show, buy and sell art.

First Thursday events contribute to making these things happen and I foresee it continuing to organically morph and grow as it redefines itself over time. Ultimately, the public will determine how it changes through attendance. And I am happy as long as it remains about the art as originally intended.

FF: Do you still host pick-up basketball games on Sunday?
BSD: My friends all know that I whine about my achilles tendonitus and my reconstructed ACL all the time. So it’s been tough recently with my injuries and aging body (I am whining again). But yes, I go at least every other Sunday to shoot some hoops at Walker park. I’m the short guy running circles around the other thirty-something hoopsters.

FF: What are you working on currently? What’s next?
BSD: My paintings will now begin to get larger than the recent studies. I’ve got a couple of subjects and sketches laid out for the next month. And I have in mind a large multi-figure dramatic painting that harkens back to the Delacroix masterpieces of the French Revolution. I’ll take it on as soon as I think I am good enough to execute it. We’re also hoping to set up a silkscreen station at the underground, which I will be in charge of starting up.