Any dream is possible in a fictional world of football

Jonathan Tomlinson



Ruth Davis’ work is a fictional take on the dramatic world of football.

“I paint what is important to me. It is something that I have always been able to do much easier than writing or describing something, I find writing so difficult to articulate, painting is easier and whilst I can say I have a process, I am never sure how the works happen, it is a beautiful mystery; which keeps me hooked!” Davis explains when we begin talking about her work. 

It's a rare occurrence to encounter football-inspired artworks within the typically pristine, white-walled galleries that adorn our cities. As we are well aware, football is a fast-paced industry characterised by its dynamic and highly dramatic nature, leaving little room for artistic interpretation in a fictional sense. However, in the contemporary landscape of the sport, football has transformed into an endeavour cherished by the masses for its ongoing commitment to fostering inclusivity, catering to both football enthusiasts and those uninitiated in the game.

“I want my paintings to enable people to look at football differently, it isn’t just for people who like this sport, I hope everyone can enjoy something beautiful in it. My work has been called making football chic and I really like this description! Not quite haute couture football but on its way,” says Davis. 

The individuals depicted in her paintings stand apart from the athletes we observe on our screens. There is a genuine authenticity to the individuals featured in her work. The grass appears long and fluid, while the football boots assume any colour that Davis envisions. Her art conveys the notion that football has the freedom to become whatever it aspires to be. 

“I paint what I want to see, what I would like to look at. I am quite strict in that I realise no one owes anyone anything, you can’t paint something hoping to be congratulated by everyone else, it has to please you first. If you aren’t interested in it or don’t really want to look at it, why should anyone else? This is always my starting point but then the work can kind of take over and surprise me and often turns out better than what I mapped in my head. Which is an amazing feeling.”

We go on to talk about the link between art and football and we both agree that to paint something you have to be slightly obsessive and devoted, and that football attracts obsessives. “My dad dismisses football fans as ‘fanatics’ which is true and that is the point! Football can give meaning to place, to family, and all the paraphernalia associated with it; Panini stickers, posters, shirts, and signed player-worn shirts make football a religion and art has always been made for every religion, they are irrevocably linked.”

Aside from working on fictional paintings, Davis has recently worked on an exciting commission for Red Star, where she painted the Bauer stadium. “I was initially sceptical about whether I could paint it, but I enjoyed making it in the end. I really felt the limits of working on a small canvas and if I was to paint a stadium again it would need to be on a huge scale, I think the subject demands it.” 

The discussion turns to dream commissions, and Davis shares her thoughts on the ultimate aspiration: "I would ultimately like to paint with no boundaries would be San Siro in Italy - unoriginal I know but I love the architecture, plus it might be the most recognised stadium in the world?!"

See Ruth’s fictional world of football through her Instagram.

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