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The Sacred Art of Courtney Davis


From the foreword to St. Patrick a Visual Celebration

(Blandford Press 1999) by Father Dennis O Neill


In the fall of 1997, 1 was privileged to witness what happens when the veil separating this world from the Otherworld is lifted and living humans have a Glimpse of Paradise.  Amazingly, this happened in my own dining room!  Courtney Davis was visiting the United States for a fortnight and spent a weekend in my rectory. I am aware that, in Celtic understanding of reality, the body is in the soul of the person.  Without even intending to do so, before a gathering of about thirty people, Courtney actually managed to help those present to "see" this.  With the use of dowsing rods, he measured the precise parameters of the energy fields around different individuals.  He showed us how our energy fields contract as we either close in on ourselves or shut down altogether and expand proportionately as we feel joyous and expansive.  He gave any potential sceptics an opportunity to test this out for themselves, if they liked.  He then took one of his own pictures and invited individuals to concentrate on it, allowing themselves to be drawn into its world.  In each case, their energy fields expanded dramatically.

Witnessing this heightened my appreciation of the way many branches of Eastern Christianity use the veneration of icons as a means of drawing the believer into closer communion either with Christ or whichever angel or saint is depicted.  A similar principle is operating in both cases: Celtic images, designs, and mandalas and Eastern Christian icons are all gateways through which a believer can enter the Otherworld and deeper communion with its inhabitants.

Before the evening ended, Courtney also measured the energy field around the picture itself and then, speaking the entire time, slowly approached the picture to show what happens when he crosses over the boundary of a picture's energy field and enters its world.  As he crossed over, his voice began to change distorting into a deeper sound and slower motion, muffling more and more as he approached the picture.  

As he backed away from the picture, his voice returned to normal.  It seemed to me that I was being given a glimpse of what happens when someone enters "the mists of Avalon" and passes through the "veil" which separates this world from the Otherworld.  The Celtic Otherworld is the real studio Courtney enters whenever he prepares to paint one of his marvelous pictures.  Its inhabitants are his teachers and guides, as he puts brush to the page.  The next morning, after celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy, several parishioners came to the rectory for coffee and sweets.  Courtney invited them into the dining room, where he opened the velvet satchel in which he keeps the pages of the Book of Patrick.  He be-an to display the pages across the surface of the table, one next to the other, until the whole surface was covered.  The exposing of each page was accompanied by audible exclamations of wonder from some and deepening. silence from others.  In the end there was complete silence.  People just kept gazing, soaking up the beauty, as they could not take in enough.


In the Celtic belief system, there are times in the year when the veil separating this world from the other is considered thinner than at other times.  It is believed that, at these times, it is easier for humans to slip from one side to the other.  The quarterly lunar festivals are such times.  And it is thought that the thinnest space of all comes at Samhain, Celtic New Year, which takes place on the night between Halloween and All Saints Day.

Perhaps Courtney Davis can pass through the "veil" so effortlessly because he is himself a Celt, born to parents of Welsh, Scottish, and Irish descent on October 31st,the night of Halloween in 1946.  While his birthplace was Blackwood, South Wales, he grew up in London.  Alas, throughout his life, he has suffered from back problems and is registered as disabled.  After three years of employment as a designer for one of England's largest jewellry manufacturers, he was in such pain that he had to have major spinal surgery in order to keep going. It was during the painful period right after his first surgery that he had the first of a series of mystical experiences, which completely changed his life.  It began with the sensation that his departed grandmother was manipulating and massaging his left leg and foot which had lost feeling from the surgery to accelerate the healing process.  This was followed by a vision in which the wall suddenly opened, allowing the hospital ward to be filled with radiant light, smoke, and Otherworld beings.  They were monks, who surrounded him and began a three-hour operation manipulating and cutting out sections of his back, and in a few minutes later replacing them.  Lifting him above his own body, whenever they were working on any of its inner parts.


This extraordinary experience had a threefold result.  Even though he eventually had to have a more back surgery in the future, he has been basically well enough to maintain a continuous creative outpouring for the last thirty years.  In 1987 after creating black and white images for the previous ten years, he began to paint wonderful things with aid of spirit lights that guided his hand.

Entirely self-taught, using gouache and ink, he has turned out more and more remarkable Celtic art, in a flow that has been ever gushing and ever fresh in imagination and design.  Over fortyseven books have resulted thus far, culminating in a retrospective book of his art that he is currently working on for Chimera Publishing. Just as the ancient Druids and Bards went through twenty years of rigorous training before they were considered fully qualified to practice their skills, so Courtney feels that since his St. Patrick book in 1999 his art is now being elevated to a new level of maturity.  He also found that he had the ability to be used for healing and successfully worked in various churches and hospitals until the art took more and more of his time.  Courtney’s life's work is likely being launched into a new future, whose artistic outpouring will even more manifestly be guided by and more easily give access to the Celtic Otherworld, from which it emerges.


His work has been exhibited widely in Western Europe, Japan and was introduced to Chicago in 1995 at his first American exhibition.  Not only have many of his pictures appeared in his books, but also some of the designs are now being re-created in glass by renowned Illinois artist Mark Duro.  By now, many of Courtney's original pieces can be located in private and institutional collections, in chapels and in museums, where they are a source of inspiration, meditation, and healing for his patrons and friends.


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