Ma it: an gloss

With household gloss as a primary material, IAN DAVENPORT keeps painting firmly on the artworld map.

Words: Moira Jeffrey

It’s official painting is back. On the worldwide blockbuster front, you can see Mark Rothko in Paris or Jackson Pollock in London. In the news. you can read articles on how painting is the new rock ’n’ roll (or maybe just not as moribund as we had been told). In Hollywood. word is that Ed Harris will star as Pollock in a new biopic bound to dwell on the lurid details of a myth-making life. On the other hand. as the career of British artist lan Davenport testifies. maybe painting never went away. Maybe it quietly changed shape and became something more than ‘just painting’.

Following last month’s opening taster, Ian Davenport: Paintings is the first major production at Dundee Contem- porary Arts. It is a testament to the artist’s simultaneous status as both brilliant newcomer and old hand.

Davenport produces work that hopes to fall somewhere between artistic categories. A Davenport piece is just as much a sculpture. a dance or a mirror as it is a painting. He works by pouring household gloss onto a highly prepared surface and flipping the board to control the flow. The result produces the impression of an are or a doorway in a highly reflective and often colourful

form. Davenport was part of the generation that became

known as YBAs. He was 22 when he exhibited in Damien Hirst’s Freeze show. In 1991. when the media was gripped by a wave of panic in the face of the emerging young British artists. he was nominated for the Turner Prize. Immediately the painter was caught in the blizzard of negative publicity and critical carping.

‘I hadn’t been ready for the degree of bitterness it would create. but in some ways it was good to learn things early.’ he says. He continued working and showing. Surrounded by peers who dealt artistically and socially in irony. Davenport kept his head. ‘I had to keep a sense of proportion and humour,’ he acknowledges. ‘Sometimes I think my painting is really dumb.’

72 THE usr 13—27 May 1999

'Sometimes I think my painting is really dumb.’ Ian Davenport

a“ I “uni” IV, I _ fl. 4-,w 3 4 “‘1‘ 1 a . " "" 9 .‘1 r “A .‘ _ 11.2” 1’ ‘3

4 ‘s ‘2 ‘g v“ ,_.,‘. we: m . r a ' _- 3.1%" it“ {IF L . ,. '. '1 : . W , » A, , .' “W‘s”! ‘. v

, 1! ‘91“: v, v '

Painter man: Ian Davenport in his studio

He has been attributed with the role of founder of a cult of ‘new lad’ action painting, but doesn't see himself that way. While he is clearly enthusiastic about the physical possibilities of painting. he has discovered his own limits in the last decade and a half. ‘It is exciting in the studio.’ he confirms. ‘but hard work. to the extent that l have sometimes required help because I injured my back.’

For Davenport. the figure of Pollock remains a source of inspiration: ‘He produced work which was both radical and unapologetic.‘ So perhaps the public interest in Pollock is more than just biographical. and the art is part of the fascination. ‘I don’t think painting ever went away.’ states Davenport. ‘but it is going through a reappraisal just now. I don’t think it is more or less important than. say. video or installation. However, for 2000 years. people have found painting an interesting art form.’ And that isn’t going to stop now.

Ian Davenport: Paintings, Dundee Contemporary Arts. Sat 15 May-Sun 27 Jun.


The big picture at the exhibitions.

BULKHEAD, THE GLASGOW-BASED visual arts project which literally put art ’on the buses', goes into overdrive this month with the launch of two ventures aiming to generate new work in unusual sites throughout the city. Bulkhead's new exhibition space, a former funeral parlour at 264 High Street, opened on Thu 13 May with a new piece by Shauna McMullan.

At the same time, the organisation will announce the shortlist for the Bulkhead Prize 1999, the first of five annual awards to promote and fund new public art sculptures within the city boundaries. The three artists shortlisted this year will see their projects realised over the summer and the final award of £3,000 will be announced in September. For details, call Bulkhead on 0141 572 0160.

THE WORK OF American Ann Hamiiton, last seen at Dundee Contemporary Arts, is set to return to these shores in a new context. The video and installation artist can be found in the dance programme of the Edinburgh International Festival. Hamilton, who will represent the US at the Venice Biennale, has collaborated with the innovative choreographer Meg Stuart and her company Damaged Goods. The performance appetite can be seen at the Festival Theatre on 21 and 22 Aug.

THE OUTPUT OF a neglected radical of art and thought is celebrated at the Collins Gallery in Glasgow this month. Biologist Patrick Geddes, the polymath who built Edinburgh's Ramsay Gardens was probably Scotland's first eco-warrior and helped establish the brand new disciplines of sociology and town planning on the way. The curators have dipped into the Geddes archive for a rare glimpse into his view on cities. See exhibition listings for details.

SIGALIT LANDAU, THE Anglo-Israeli sculptor and installation artist, has been awarded the first Times/Artangel Open Commission. Her nomadic sculpture, based on a story by Hans Christian Andersen, is due to be realised by the end of 1999. (Moira Jeffrey)

Bulkhead: announcing new awards