Flinders Lane Gallery, Melbourne
One has only to glance at the paintings of Jo Davenport, with their exquisite colour and free, undulating forms, before thoughts of both the earthbound and the ethereal quickly spring to mind. Davenport calls upon the attributes of nature, its textures and atmosphere, to inform her visual vocabulary. The flourishing images she creates suggest a kind of spatial reality in which the transitory is held captive. Through the coalescence of abstraction and heightened colouration, the artist imbues the intangible experience and its recollection, with a palpable and unwavering energy. The results are as timeless as the earth itself.
For Davenport, the landscape appears to offer an opportunity for inward reflection; to investigate the intersect between the external – topographical, atmospheric, organic – and the interior realms of memory and desire and to capture the 'splendour and spontaneous uncertainty of Nature and how it relates back to our human experience.' Energetic and beautifully rambling, her visual language of drips, dots, scrubs and washes spill over with a narrative intentionally derived from a simultaneous awareness of subjective and objective experience. Through intimation rather than explicit representation, her images serve to encourage an awareness of the way in which the body engages with the space it inhabits. Exploring the surface of each canvas is to become immersed in a sensory field of the artist's own annotations – mapping out her representations of temperature, wind direction, light and shadow, echoes of sound and traces of ambient movement. The flow of river, the undulations of land mass, the call of a bird or the sway of a tree branch – each observance has been translated into a system of abstracted line and colour.
Embodying the full glory of seasonal change, warm pinks, oranges, and flaming reds dance across melancholy fields of cool grey. Radiant light ricochets off darkness, disrupting any generalisations or readings of simple frivolity. Within this parallel use of high and low colour, of wild and restrained application, Davenport is constructing sites suggestive of the lucidity, disparity and amnesia present within the selective nature of memory and recollection. Just as memories often harbour mixed emotions, the intensity of our recollections are always filtered through the layers and tones of our own perception. Such dualities are conveyed here through a series of compositional opposites – density versus erasure, gridded lines versus those that are loose and chaotic, areas of foreboding weight beside calm openness – each mark carrying with it a range of personal meanings and associations. It is through her ability to balance structural freedom and control that this exploration of both the panoramic and the inwardly reflective is made possible.
Avoiding any defined features or solid spatial signifiers, Davenport's paintings unfold like a series of universal, atmospheric ruminations, free of sentimentality or romanticism. In setting up such visual relationships the artist is creating a bridge between the moment of encounter and its later recall. Ultimately these works reflect a conviction that life is never a passive encounter, but rather a transformative journey toward greater understanding.
- 'Time Recalled' Catalogue Essay by Phe Luxford, Flinders Lane Gallery, 2014