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Al's graphic look at idea of beauty; Art.

Byline: JULIE CHAMBERLAIN

A CHALLENGING collection of paintings examines the idea of beauty, with works including nudes whose bodies do not fit the normal idea of perfection.

The exhibition, entitled Muscle Memory, is at the Lock Gallery at Coventry's Canal Basin, and features works by the Astral Gypsy, otherwise known as Al Davison, who runs a graphic novels bookshop and art studio a few doors from the gallery.

One of Al's many occupations is as a comic artist and in a leaflet at the exhibition he explains how he was born with severe spina bifida, was not expected to live and had survived years in hospital and 21 operations by the time he was eight. Perhaps not surprisingly he escaped into his dreams and his art.

The paintings include depictions of other artists with physical problems, such as Frida Kahlo, who in a piece entitled In Search of the Perfect Spine is looking in a pained way at a person with a perfect body.

There is also Alison Lapper, the artist born without arms and with shortened legs, who is pictured painting with her mouth. She swept to fame when a statue of herself pregnant was unveiled on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2005.

Al also takes inspiration from his own suffering; there's Self Portrait When Blind, and the tender Her Hand on My Spine, which is as it sounds, with the hand above some scar tissue.

There are also seemingly perfect bodies - you notice the lovely face and torso of a woman, then realise she doesn't have arms, and in the portrait of Gita, a childhood friend of Al's, a shapely back and bottom march away from the viewer on metal legs.

The colours are bright and vivid, the setting of the portraits, not surprisingly, like in a graphic novel, but they draw you in to look beyond the surface.

CAPTION(S):

PERFECT PERCEPTION... Works by Al Davison are featured in the exhibition Muscle Memory at the Lock Gallery at the Canal Basin.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 13, 2009
Words:336
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