"If a painting is about painting, this allows room for other content to enter it. Davis paints a dot on a dot and it creates an aureole, creates light. Op is invoked. The history of abstraction is invoked. But behind the dots seems to be a picture, of something."
"In the most recent series, each painting takes as a starting point a painting by Boris Kustodiev–a different one each time. Davis seems to take a detail and to develop it. For example, the mushroom paintings are worked up from the noticeboard in Kustodiev’s Autumn Near the Town of 1915. The paintings are not about this, not about looking at another artist. But the use of a historical reference point for inspiration is important. It could have been another artist. It seems he likes to have something which will initiate a visual study. And Kustodiev’s spectacular skill with bright colour is significant. But Davis did not use instead a modern or a contemporary painter, which would then have seemed more of a theoretical statement."
"His painting seems to draw on Pop, Op and Expressionism, older modernist colourists. Perhaps he chose Kustodiev to somehow belie this list. Kustodiev is not an Expressionist, nor a Symbolist, nor a Fauve, his style is more decorative, more ornamental, but he uses this manner to address the social and the political. Davis is interested in Kustodiev and Kandinsky for their ability with and ambition for bright colour. But Kustodiev’s paintings are a certain kind of social realism. And both Kandinsky and Kustodiev were interested in folk art."
Extracts from an essay by David Lillington published in Matthew Davis - Kustodiev, DCV 2020