Three years ago, Kai Samuels-Davis began preparing for his upcoming solo exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery. It wasn’t until a year ago that the series of paintings began to take shape. “The past year of lockdowns triggered a lot of personal growth, which ended up changing part of my studio practice and evolved the work to better represent what I’ve been going through (since my paintings tend to all be self-reflective),” says the artist. “A lot of saturated pinks, purples and blues appeared signaling a new way of looking at the world and a sense of change and appreciation.”
What resulted is The Clearing, an exhibition focused on awakening and transition as seen in images of isolation and nature. The works will hang at the San Francisco gallery September 2 through October 2 in what the artist calls “the most cohesive show” he has done.
There will be five flower paintings in the show including Slipping Away. Describing the work, Samuels-Davis says, “I painted Slipping Away afterwatching how quickly a bouquet of cut flowers wilted and died. My favorite stage was when they first began to droop and discolor, the water turning murky. I thought it would be fun to immortalize that moment and make better use of the flowers. With this one in particular, I tried to represent the sense of time with the flowers seeming to be almost fading away.”
One of the last paintings Samuels-Davis started working on after the direction of the show took shape was Visions—a figurative piece depicting a woman looking downward, but still filled with an emotive quality. It ended up being one of the first he completed. “It came very naturally; I think out of the need to see where the work was headed and for a sense of calm before I dove into the heart of the work,” says the artist. “I wanted to spark the new direction and establish the new palette and tone, while exploring new ideas and practices. Looking at the piece now it makes me think of someone filtering out the world and creating a sense of determination and focus, envisioning their own future—though it’s meant to be open for interpretation!”
There also are several paintings in the show that represent the Northern California fires that he and his family witnessed. As the gallery explains in a press release, “The threat posed by the fires and the upending of life they brought about played a critical role in his year of growth.” Among these works is Again, which is a view of Drakes Beach after the fires were controlled. In the painting, the gallery shares, “he depicts solitary waves—which he describes as glasslike in form—rolling across the calm waters toward the beach. The light coming through the smoky gray fog hanging in the air is tinged red, creating a filigree of pinkish-red reflections that flicker ebulliently across the shallows.”