A head for art

Painting helps local artist forget her pain.

Painting helps local artist forget her pain.

CAREER CHANGE: Holly Davis holds one of her painted animal skulls, that of a cow. Holly enjoys singing, playing the piano and painting — pursuits she wants to continue if her health allows. The onset of a neurological condition, thought to be multiple sclerosis, led to her giving up her job in early childhood education. Now she is training to be a SPELD teacher. Pictures by Rebecca Grunwell
BEYOND THE SKULL: Holly Davis takes her love of bright colours and the arcane to her renewed passion for painting.
DOWN TO THE BONE: A selection of bleached skulls await Holly Davis’s artistic touch.

Skulls, bright colours and heavy metal fascinate Holly Davis who is inspired by the festive hues seen in Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

“I’ve always been drawn to that style and to making something feared or seen as gross beautiful,” says Davis.

“I’ve long had a fascination with the Day of the Dead. The colours have always drawn me in. I’ve also always had a liking for the occult. And I love my heavy metal music. I’m the bogan of the family.”

Goat and bull skulls found on her parents’ farm provide a canvas. Davis paints the skulls with decorative designs that include motifs such as the pentangle. With a mix of the pagan, Freemasonry, an ancient symbol of truth on Arthurian knight Gawain’s shield and the occult, the five-pointed star is a loaded, but mandala-like pattern.

Davis has painted from an early age but as a dedicated early-childhood teacher and mum had little time to pursue that passion. Hit by a neurological disorder doctors struggle to diagnose, her condition became so debilitating she was unable to continue in the job she loved. So she took up painting again “to brighten up my space”. The bogan of the family now balances her love of screaming eagle metal music with bohemian craft and furnishings.

“I was sitting here in pain and not able to do anything,” says Davis.

“But I found once I started painting I went into that zone and forgot the pain. I get so excited when I see my work come together. It’s given me something to look forward to. I can get started then look up and find it’s two in the morning.”

Davis’s artistic renaissance began with brightening up a dresser in primary colours. The reds, blues and yellows are closer in spirit to the bright chalky tones seen in the painted exteriors of plaster-cladded buildings in Mexico. Davis’s dresser though is decorated with a circular, pentagram-based pattern.

Now in training as a SPELD teacher with a view to working with children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Davis’s fascination with the brain and how it works extends into her artwork. Study of brain function and how various conditions light up different parts is part of her coursework so the born-again artist recently experimented with crafting a human brain of two halves with coloured parts from polymer clay she baked in the oven.

The large, decorated skull (pictured) was Davis’s first completed skull design. A horned goat skull patterned in the same colours as the dresser has joined the collection. A selection of bleached skulls on an iron table out back now await their new lives.

Skulls Davis has collected include the bleached remnants of a goat cull, skulls washed up by the river and a bull’s head with a bullet hole in it.

“They’re things we found and I eventually make beautiful,” she says.

“They served their purpose and lived their lives. It’s so much fun finding them.”

Skulls, bright colours and heavy metal fascinate Holly Davis who is inspired by the festive hues seen in Mexico’s Day of the Dead.

“I’ve always been drawn to that style and to making something feared or seen as gross beautiful,” says Davis.

“I’ve long had a fascination with the Day of the Dead. The colours have always drawn me in. I’ve also always had a liking for the occult. And I love my heavy metal music. I’m the bogan of the family.”

Goat and bull skulls found on her parents’ farm provide a canvas. Davis paints the skulls with decorative designs that include motifs such as the pentangle. With a mix of the pagan, Freemasonry, an ancient symbol of truth on Arthurian knight Gawain’s shield and the occult, the five-pointed star is a loaded, but mandala-like pattern.

Davis has painted from an early age but as a dedicated early-childhood teacher and mum had little time to pursue that passion. Hit by a neurological disorder doctors struggle to diagnose, her condition became so debilitating she was unable to continue in the job she loved. So she took up painting again “to brighten up my space”. The bogan of the family now balances her love of screaming eagle metal music with bohemian craft and furnishings.

“I was sitting here in pain and not able to do anything,” says Davis.

“But I found once I started painting I went into that zone and forgot the pain. I get so excited when I see my work come together. It’s given me something to look forward to. I can get started then look up and find it’s two in the morning.”

Davis’s artistic renaissance began with brightening up a dresser in primary colours. The reds, blues and yellows are closer in spirit to the bright chalky tones seen in the painted exteriors of plaster-cladded buildings in Mexico. Davis’s dresser though is decorated with a circular, pentagram-based pattern.

Now in training as a SPELD teacher with a view to working with children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Davis’s fascination with the brain and how it works extends into her artwork. Study of brain function and how various conditions light up different parts is part of her coursework so the born-again artist recently experimented with crafting a human brain of two halves with coloured parts from polymer clay she baked in the oven.

The large, decorated skull (pictured) was Davis’s first completed skull design. A horned goat skull patterned in the same colours as the dresser has joined the collection. A selection of bleached skulls on an iron table out back now await their new lives.

Skulls Davis has collected include the bleached remnants of a goat cull, skulls washed up by the river and a bull’s head with a bullet hole in it.

“They’re things we found and I eventually make beautiful,” she says.

“They served their purpose and lived their lives. It’s so much fun finding them.”

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