At a mere 22-years-old Londoner Nathan Cash Davidson is the youngest painter to ever show his work at Parasol Unit. Heavily influenced by historical figures and 16th Century costume, his work evokes a surreal regal renaissance as he depicts period characters with a beguiling sense of humour. Burlesque In Which We’ve Thrown It On Its Head, which takes it’s name from cuttings of random newspaper stories put together haphazardly, is a collection of paintings that explore Davidson’s fascination with old master painters as well as being symptomatic of his own surreal imagination and oddball sense of humour.
Dazed Digital: What is the significance of the exhibition's title?
Nathan Cash Davidson: The title of the show comes from chopping up words and putting them together again, although It wasn’t completely random. I do it for fun. I just collected newspaper articles and chopped them up and rearranged them. I always end up using them for titles and lyrics and stuff as well. They can vary from The Metro to The Evening Standard, or just stuff my mum and dad have.
DD: Why do you choose to depict historical figures, both real and mythical?
Nathan Cash Davidson: I just like anyone who looks like they could be from the past. For example, if I saw a film where everyone was dressed up like they were from the 16th century, I could pause that and use that. Our faces haven’t really changed much, so anyone could potentially look identical to someone from that time if they dress up in the same clothes.
DD: What is it about this particular time period that fascinates you?
Nathan Cash Davidson: When I was a kid my parents used to take me to the National Gallery, and lots of houses that had old master paintings in them. When I paint, it reminds me of going on holiday and walking round the old houses. It also reminds me of going to see pantomimes. Often, Renaissance paintings capture us much better than painters do nowadays. I can relate those works to stuff I do now, like going to the synagogue or going to my friend’s house who has a big garden – at night we used to go out on the shed and pretend there would be like werewolves and zombies on the other side!
DD: Er, okay... At times, you work has an almost cartoonish quality as opposed to a direct adoption of renaissance style…
Nathan Cash Davidson: The most recent ones don’t but that is the look I was trying to get to. I think my paintings are becoming more classical though.
DD: Is this classical style something you’ve been aspiring to all along?
Nathan Cash Davidson: Yes, but I also would like to do more modern stuff as well, I’ve just been doing the more modern stuff in private. The other stuff I’d like to do would be installation. I’d like to do installation and show videos and stuff, and the videos would be totally the opposite because that’s such a modern technology, so I’d like to show a contrast to the paintings because they won’t be inspired by things from the past.
DD: There is an element of humour in your paintings, what is your view on humour in art?
Nathan Cash Davidson: It depends very much what the humour is and how funny it is. If it’s a good joke it will be good, if it’s a bad joke it will be bad. So it depends how good they are at expressing the humour. I don’t know what would make it good though. I think a painting of Jeremy Kyle about to strip nude in someone’s house and calling it This The Man Who Apparently Sticks to a Deal would be funny, well, that’s what I’d call funny. Or perhaps a badger man who dresses up in a funny mask and just throws mannequin heads out of his window. (Laughs) Or how about painting an otter man wearing a giant cloak shouting “otter” out of his window?
Nathan Cash Davidson, Burlesque in which we’ve thrown it on its head at Parasol Unit until February 13