Ian Davenport: Between the Lines

Ian Davenport: Puddle Painting: Magenta, Violet, Red, Blue, 2011. Acrylic paint on stainless steel, mounted on aluminium panel, 97 5/8 x 97 5/8 in/ 248 x 248 cm. Image courtesy of Waddington Galleries.

Between The Lines by British artist Ian Davenport currently on view at the Art Plural Gallery, is an exploration of the materiality of paint and the balance between chance and control where colours are submitted to a rigorous pouring system of densely packed vertical strips on canvases and aluminium panels.

Davenport’s creative process thrives within the ambiguities of probability and chance: through the employment of a varied range of household instruments like watering cans, electric fans and syringes, paint is released at regular intervals over a stretched working surface, its dripping trajectory sometimes happening under deliberate tilts of the surfaces. At other times, the paint drip is steered by the forces of gravity to pool into saturated puddles at the bottom, occasionally bleeding into a neighbouring colour. The result is a visual and seemingly ordered assault of colours, a towering presence of vibrant shades that dwarf the viewer, drawing attention to a concentrated application process rather than a diversity of effects.

Ian Davenport, Puddle Painting: Titanium White, 2009. Acrylic paint on aluminium, mounted on aluminium panel, 28 3/4 x 28 3/4 in / 73 x 73 cm. Image: Courtesy of Waddington Galleries

On the simplest level, Davenport’s works emphasise the physical process of art production and in particular, the fluidity and potential of a liquid medium, where pouring, dripping, and waiting cast sombre light on both the potential and limitations of paint (many of his canvases are completed in a single sitting which could last up to ten hours). In this respect, the eschewing of narrative content and the resistance towards being governed by process are indicative of an intellectual stance that ostensibly invites stylistic comparisons to the works of Bridget Riley, Helen Frankenthaler and Callum Innes.

More precisely however, it is the role of courted, organised chance – the paradoxical phenomenon of controlled accident – that is an elevated and prevalent concept in Davenport’s oeuvre. Davenport’s precise, repetitive movements and calculated drips result in the apparent disappearance of the creative human hand until the base of a puddle painting is observed. Straight lines that are not entirely precise suddenly morph into a chaotic mess of wiggles, emblematic of a paradoxical process where the façade of accidental accomplishment masks careful deliberation of artistic intention that attempts to delimit chance outcomes.


Ian Davenport was born in Sidcup in London in 1966. He studied art at the Northwich College of Art and Design in Cheshire before going to Goldsmiths College from where he graduated in 1988 and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1991. The show at the Art Plural Gallery will run until 7 July 2012.