Flinders Lane Gallery
13 October - 30 October 2020
“The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.”
C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism
A deep sense of optimism and reverence has been imbued within the vibrant abstract images painted by Albury artist Jo Davenport. While connected to the tradition of landscape painting, in which the artist records the natural world around them, Davenport’s practice moves beyond the literal or representational, shifting toward an interior, felt response to the sensations of the landscape.
Full of energy and haptic texture her glorious fields of colour send the eye on a spirited journey of perception. There are suggestions of the recognisable; a patch of fine scratch marks hint at tangled branches, while clustered paint daubs evoke uneven gravel, seedpods or perhaps the shimmer of light passing through treetops. While there is no discernible perspective to be found here, the quiet rapture of a moment spent in nature has been magnificently distilled within the tactile materiality of paint.
“My paintings become an act of reverence for the landscape, a desire to study and observe the natural beauty and profound complexity of nature around me” says Davenport. “I look for a point between recognition, of the landscape, and the sensed experience of it. The abstraction allows for a layering of meaning that can be experienced in unison, the painting therefore is never static, yet there is an element of spirit too, in a constant striving for something just beyond the visible.”
Constructed purely in oils, these densely layered compositions stand in for the artist’s need to directly connect with nature. This, mixed with a profound sense of responsibility for the health of our ecological systems, signifies the central premise of Davenport’s new exhibition Revival. Informed by both her experience working with regenerative farmers through the Earth Canvas Project and the realities of recent, terrible climate emergencies that have rocked our nation, this series signals Davenport’s commitment to the message of land care.
Her time spent with progressive farmers and the communities who support new forms of land management has afforded Davenport the opportunity to explore concepts of giving back to the earth and to further develop a practice informed by a philosophy of attunement to nature’s elemental needs. “Regeneration farming, like painting, needs to be experienced directly to find your way forward” she states. “To stand back and surrender to the landscape and have faith in the healing power of Nature to regenerate the lands.”
Given the current global reality we find ourselves in, many of us now understand more acutely the delicate environmental balances required for our bushlands, forests and waterways to be adequately protected. Living in cities that have recently been cut off from the natural environment, there is also a palpable sense of personal longing for the healing and reflective power of nature.
Within Davenport’s skilful treatment, paint becomes a vehicle toward an entirely deeper understanding of the restorative needs of our ecosystem. For her, the role of the artist is to translate the energy of the landscape, to see the self and the environment that support us as a connected whole. “I want each of my paintings to be a celebration of the life-force of the land, and for my work to be part of a solution that shifts human’s impact toward one of hope and restoration.” Through the humble act of surrendering to the beauty of nature, we might all find such moments of personal and creative revival.
Catalogue Essay by Phe Luxford 2020
 Davenport is an active member of the Earth Canvas Artists and Regenerative Farmers Program, which couples well-established landscape artists with regenerative farmers situated between the Murray and the Murrumbidgee Rivers in southern NSW.