Ian Davenport

b. 1966

Ian Davenport (b. 1966, Sidcup, Kent) is an abstract painter recognised for his striking colour compositions of intense complexity, whose work’s simplicity is informed by an innate understanding and enjoyment of his chosen material. Since graduating from Goldsmiths’ College of Art in 1988, Ian Davenport has experimented with quotidian tools such as watering cans, electric fans and nails, designed to exercise and limit his manipulation of the paint. His various means of execution are driven by a desire to investigate the paradox between control and chance. It has led him to increasingly emphasise the action in painting as the subject matter, observing that ‘the how to paint became the what to paint’. Although his paintings are abstract, their imagery is often derived from his London surroundings; from the arced silhouette of a road tunnel, to the coloured stripes of paper reams that hang in the entrance of a shop. Davenport continues to experiment, using filled hypodermic syringes to streamline the pour of liquid household paint onto his surfaces, using only gravity to direct the flow. In 2008, Davenport noticed that the poured paint pooled into puddles on the floor; this visual contradiction between controlled, precise lines that then merged freely, autonomous and self-determining, embodied the paradox that Davenport sought to describe. Incorporating the puddles into his recent ‘Puddle Paintings’ typifies Davenport’s process-led approach to his work. His concern lies in the activity of the painting process, engaging in the precise rhythm and timing required by his uniquely formulated practice. Although he experiments with different formal arrangements, Davenport has always pursued the study of colour relationships. His poured paintings contemplate the harmonies of each composition, each possessed of their own visual sense of timing, rhythm, interval and accent.


Davenport received early recognition from his participation 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). Only two years after graduation, Davenport had his first solo exhibition at Waddington Galleries in 1990, and 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 been the subject of numerous exhibitions worldwide, with solo museum shows at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham and Tate Liverpool. He is the subject of a forthcoming major survey exhibition at Dallas Contemporary in September 2018. His work is held in important museum collections throughout the world, including Tate, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Weltkunst Collection, Zurich; Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal; and Dallas Museum of Art, Texas.


In 2017, Davenport was invited to produce a pavilion for the 57th Venice Biennale for Swatch. Davenport painted the large-scale installation ‘Giardini Colourfall’ and, to coincide with this, designed the limited edition watch ‘Wide Acres of Time’. He has received numerous commissions for public installations, most notably by Southwark Council to produce ‘Poured Lines: Southwark Street’, a 48 metre long painting which was completed in 2006 as part of the regeneration of Bankside. Davenport has explored different mediums through his commissions, such as a hand-painted series of porcelain plates in collaboration with Meissen, commissioned by South London Gallery in 2016. In November of the same year, Davenport designed a special edition bag for Christian Dior’s Lady Art project.


A comprehensive monograph of his work was published in 2014 by Thames & Hudson, including an interview by Michael Bracewell, and newly commissioned texts by Martin Filler and Damien Hirst.

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