After Dark, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1230mm x 1530mm
Birdsong, 2014 oil on Belgian linenlinen1830mm x 1680mm
An Uncertain Horizon, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1530mm x 1530mm
Earthly Delights - Eurobin Falls I, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1680mm x 1370mm
Earthly Delights - Eurobin Falls II, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1220mm x 1520mm
Entwined, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1400mm x 1400mm
I Hear It in Sky Blue, 2014 oil on Belgian linen1400mm x 1400mm
For the First Time II, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1830mm x 1680mm
Mad Dogs and Englishmen, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1830mm x 1680mm
Midwinter Spring, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1530mm x 1530mm
Red Sky in the Morning IV, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1400mm x 1400mm
Still Waters, 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1830 x 1680mm
The Back Hills (Diptych), 2014 oil on Belgian linen 1530mm x 2440mm
The Lull Before the Storm (Diptych), 2014 oil on Belgian linen1530mm x 3060mm
An Intimate Landscape
Arthouse Gallery, Sydney
Only artists who surrender to the paint’s sovereignty can become liberated from it. If the brush, the palette and the myriad colours are Jo Davenport’s hardest task-masters, then she has also made them her allies. Time and uncertainty are the defining principles of this artist’s work. These are ideas informed by her experience of bush life in the valley at Splitters Creek, outside Albury, NSW. Here, the temporal and random elements of nature exist without the necessity of human witness. Davenport has made this idyll her home and studio. The sensual elements of the running river, the chatter of birds, the still reflections on the lagoon, the smell of pending rain, cool glimmers of morning or the heat of the midday sun create a sanctuary for thought and creativity.
This physical or natural realm is not immediately apparent in Davenport’s paintings, which are an abstracted cavalcade of enriching colour and energetic form. However, the rhythms of natural life aid the artist’s process, which begins with that scallywag of human thinking…randomness. The Belgian linen is primed with rabbit skin glue. The first marks are poured and then dripped from side to side, by lifting edges of the canvas. This repetitive motion creates the cross-lines or gridded patterns, which are evident at a deep level in the ground of the composition. The subjectile force of these deep marks project outwards towards the viewer. These immediate and arbitrary first marks are the unreliable scaffolding of the painting.
These early formations are unreliable, in the sense that nature’s cycles and patterns are impossible to restrain within the confines of a painting. Davenport accepts our collective human inability to make sense of the exquisite beauty of nature, and instead pays innocent homage to it. Hers is a joyous reflection, a vibrant and vigorous prayer of painted lines. These gridded forms are also unreliable because they appear structural but are only a reminder of impossible futures and uncertain prospects ahead. Time is a curious problem for Davenport. She wishes to capture time and enclose it in her work, and yet she celebrates the endless uncertainty of the next moment. The artist likes the undetermined horizon, a prominent feature in many of her paintings, because the viewer is not sure where the sky starts and the land ends.
Many of Davenport’s painted marks are lines. Like contour maps, each of the lines enacts a feature of the earth, as it shifts and undulates in multiple directions. Maps have been an important interest for the artist, who has made drawings of maps in the past. She says, “we find ourselves through map-making. Lines on a map anchor us in this world.” Naturally, the process of interpreting form, through brushed lines, brings up an issue of negative space. The voids are the connective tissue. Davenport enjoys the manner in which voids are never empty but are full of possibility, and memory. Her paintings brim with full-hearted passion and a sense of the glorious state of living. These are paintings that anticipate a hopeful future, an expectation of bounty.
- 'An Intimate Landscape' Catalogue Essay by Prue Gibson, Arthouse Gallery, 2015