Ian Davenport

Untitled (Drab)


Not on display

Ian Davenport born 1966
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2135 × 2135 mm
Purchased 1990

Display caption

Untitled (Drab) is one of a series of paintings Davenport made in the same tonal range of colours. Using housepaints he loads a brush and, placing it at one end of a canvas, he allows the paint to drip and trickle downwards. In the case of this painting he also turned the canvas and worked in the opposite direction and at right angles. As a result, the effect of gravity, which plays such an important part in Davenport's painting, is both embraced and confounded. Davenport builds up an impastoed veil of parallel marks which are conceptually simple but spatially complex. By combining chance and systematic application of paint Davenport combined two seemingly opposite ways of working.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Technique and condition

The following entry is based on an interview with the artist held on 14 March 1991.

Made in Davenport's East London Warehouse studios, 'Drab' is painted with decorator's alkyd undercoat paint and yacht varnish on a primed cotton canvas. He develops his combinations of paints and varnishes on small trial canvases and evolves his methods of application through a series of full scale works. Davenport selects his paints and varnishes from decorator's and industrial sources for their non-art associations, their consistent properties of colour, gloss and transparency and their rheological properties which determine the way they flow and interact on the canvas giving the distinctive surfaces of his paintings.

Davenport prepared his support by stretching flat, cotton duck canvas, supplied by Russell and Chapple, onto a deep sided expandable wood stretcher, manufactured by D.W. Stretchers, and priming it with two coats of Spectrum acrylic primer. Onto the primed canvas he applied two brushed coats of Dulux Trade Drab code 4255, or Albany undercoat Drab, thinned a little with white spirit if necessary. This produced an even, matt grey ground which was allowed to dry thoroughly before applying his latticework of more undercoat and Johnstone's Yacht varnish. Davenport has described the process thus: '...undercoat and varnish were dripped onto the painting which was then turned on its side and left to dry. This was repeated several times until the painting was finished.' With the primed and undercoated canvas in the upright position, Davenport places his can of paint or varnish at the bottom. A stream of paint or varnish is swiftly drawn upwards in front of the canvas using a brush heavily loaded by dipping it into the can. He only allows the loaded brush, trailing a stream of paint, of varnish or paint, to make contact with the canvas at the top, depositing a splash of colour with ribbons of paint or varnish running down the canvas from it. To reach the top, Davenport steps up onto a chair as he swiftly lifts the brush upwards. Turning the canvas onto its right side caused the streams to run at right angles to their original direction of flow, creating the horizontal ribbons when the canvas is orientated in its display position. This process was repeated across the canvas.

The painting is not framed for display, the runs and pools of undercoat and varnish being visible on the white primed edges. Protective lightweight backboards were attached to the back of the stretcher on acquisition.


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