Ian Davenport

b. 1966

Ian Davenport (b. 1966, Sidcup, Kent) is an abstract painter recognised for his complex colour compositions, his work informed by a deep understanding and enjoyment of paint. Since graduating from Goldsmiths’ College of Art in 1988, Davenport has experimented with using everyday tools, such as watering cans, electric fans and nails, to exercise and limit his manipulation of paint. These various tools and means of execution are driven by a desire to investigate the paradox between control and chance. It has led him to emphasise the action of painting as his subject matter, observing that ‘the how to paint became the what to paint’. Davenport is well-known for using hypodermic syringes to pour liquid household paint onto surfaces, and in 2008 he noticed how these puddled paint onto the floor, creating a visual contradiction between the controlled, precise lines of his paintings and their merged self-determination.


Davenport received early recognition participating in Freeze, a student-curated exhibition at the Surrey Docks in London Docklands in 1988, which exhibited the work of Goldsmiths’ students who would later come to be loosely known as the ‘YBA’s’ (Young British Artists). Two years after graduation, in 1990, Davenport had his first solo exhibition at Waddington Galleries. In the same year, his work was included in The British Art Show, touring to Leeds City Art Gallery and Hayward Gallery, London. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1991 and, in 1999, was awarded the John Moores Painting Prize. Davenport has since been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide, with solo museum shows at Tate, Liverpool (2000), Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2004) and in 2018, a retrospective at Dallas Contemporary. 


Recent years have seen Davenport extend his painting practice from two to three dimensions with site-specific installations. In 2006, Southwark Council commissioned him to produce ‘Poured Lines: Southwark Street’, a 48-metre-long painting that formed part of the regeneration of Bankside. Through his commissions, Davenport explores different mediums. He created a hand-painted series of porcelain plates in collaboration with Meissen for the South London Gallery in 2016 and, in the same year, designed a special edition bag for Christian Dior. In 2019 Dior went on to commission a large-scale installation, Davenport’s ‘Cascade’, for their flagship store in Toronto. For the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017, Davenport was invited by the Swatch pavilion to create the ‘Giardini Colourfall’ installation and to design the limited edition watch ‘Wide Acres of Time’. In 2022, Davenport installed a poured staircase at the Chiostro Del Bramante in Rome for the institution’s Crazy exhibition, and the following year, in 2023, his poured staircase ‘Tide’ was unveiled at the Greenwich Peninsula in London. 


Davenport’s work is held in important museum collections throughout the world, including Berardo Collection Museum, Lisbon; Birmingham City Art Gallery; Borusan Art Gallery, Istanbul; British Museum, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Jerwood Space, London; MOMA, New York; Museum of Modern Art, La Spezia, Italy; Museum Voorlinden, Netherlands; National Museum Wales, Cardiff; Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery; Southampton City Art Gallery; Tate, London; Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal, Germany and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.


A comprehensive monograph of Davenport’s work was published in 2014 by Thames & Hudson. The publication includes an interview by Michael Bracewell and newly commissioned texts by Martin Filler and Damien Hirst.

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Exhibitions and Art Fairs



Ian Davenport: A brief introduction

Waddington Custot