Venice - Interviews

Giardini Colourfall at the Venice Biennale: An Interview with Ian Davenport

2 years ago

On the occasion of the opening of the 57th Venice Biennale, Ian Davenport presented the project “Giardini Colourfall”, a monumental new painting for the Swatch pavilion.

Carla Ingrasciotta: Let’s start with the monumental painting you’ve been commissioned by the Swatch pavilion at the Venice Biennale. The piece is made of 200 litres of paint and incorporates 1,000 different colours. Could you tell us about the creative process of this artwork? How long did it take to complete it?

Ian Davenport: I had been in tentative discussions with Swatch about doing a project last year and then finally I went to Venice and met the creative director of Swatch, Carlo Giordanetti in the middle of December. I wanted to see the Giardini space and get a sense of what may work in the Biennale park environment, especially to understand the scale and light. I returned to London and ordered the materials straight away as I knew that the deadlines were very tight.
From then onwards we drew up a schedule for virtually every day until the collection date in early April. The painting needed to be prepared with a special primer in an industrial spraying process to protect the metal and then ground coats of paint were applied in my studio. The work is nearly 4 metres high and 14 metres long so even installing it in my studio was quite a project and we needed to re-weld and adjust the trusses in the roof to accommodate the painting.
Giardini Colourfall‘ is composed of lines of colour that have been carefully dripped down the painting surface. These then flow out onto to the floor and pool in thick seductive puddles. To ensure that there is no obvious break in the flow of the paint, I had to work every day for four weeks and up to 10 hours a day. It was pretty exhausting and challenging.

C.I.: The opening days of the Biennale are finally ended. What about your involvement in the exhibition and your collaboration with Swatch Faces 2017? Have you seen something that particularly attracted your attention in the Biennale and in town?

I.D.: The opening of the Biennale was very busy and crowded. It was a great event and exciting to be involved in such a high visibility project – the Biennale continues through to November 2017. To celebrate the collaboration with Swatch, I also had the opportunity to design a watch for them. This was great fun and obviously asks very different questions to do with scale and the relationship one has to a wearable object. I approached it as though I was making a painting albeit one of a very different shape, taking into special consideration the watch face.
From the National Pavilions, I liked the Phyllida Barlow installation. There were also many other wonderful shows on in Venice during the Biennale. One that I particularly liked was an exhibition of Philip Guston’s paintings at the Academia gallery – he is one of my favourite painters. He was famous as an abstract painter and then in the last years of his life changed direction and began to work figuratively. This was a very courageous decision that shocked many of his contemporaries and some life-long supporters of his career.

C.I.: Your practice is based on abstract and colourful painting. Where do you take inspiration from? In which way has your art evolved since you started to work as a painter?

I.D.: Recent inspiration for the colour in my work comes from looking at paintings from other artists. I am interested in how other painters use colour in their artworks and I try to use this as a starting point. It helps me to make more complex chromatic arrangements than I could otherwise imagine. The colour sequence for Venice was very carefully worked out and repeated twice to give a visual sense of balance and symmetry.
My early work was often monochromatic but it has gradually developed and become more focused on colour through sense and intuition rather than on a scientific basis. In the beginning, I found using colour difficult to come to terms with but as I became more familiar with it, I realised that I needed to embrace the unexpected and not to predetermine what might happen.

C.I.In terms of your art concepts and practice, who are your mentors? I see a certain connection with modern abstract painters as Piet Mondrian, for the shapes, or Vasily Kandinsky for the colours…

I.D.: There are so many artists I like that it is hard to select a list. The two most influential artists of the last 50 years for me are probably Jackson Pollock, who completely exploded how painting could be made and what its subject may be and Andy Warhol. Warhol is known for painting celebrities but I am more interested in how he explored repetition. He was a fantastic colourist.

C.I.: How is your typical day as an artist? Do you have an open studio?

I.D.: I get to the studio and have a cup of tea and a meeting with my team – most of whom are also artists and help with the preparation of the paints and materials. We figure out the jobs for that day and then get started. Following a strict routine, we work until one, then stop for lunch, start again at two, have a tea break at four then finish at six. I like to stay on after everyone leaves and have some time to myself either to carry on working or to play guitar or just think about what we have been doing and process the day.

Carla Ingrasciotta

  • Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch
  • Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch
  • Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch Ian Davenport, Giardini Colourfall, 2017. All rights reserved Swatch
  • Ian Davenport. All rights reserved Swatch Ian Davenport. All rights reserved Swatch

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