Moving to the city of Melbourne from country NSW had a big impact on artist Jo Davenport. Up until then she had spent her childhood in and around the Riverina city of Albury. It is where she met her husband, and within close proximity to Splitters Creek, the place she now calls home. And just as the countryside has always been within reach, so too has art. Both her grandmothers painted, and Jo recalls painting alongside the grandmother who lived in Bendigo. When Jo moved to Melbourne to complete a Masters of Visual Arts these two forces in her life merged in spectacular fashion. The result was a graduate show that led to representation with Melbourne’s Flinders Lane Gallery. Jo is also represented by the Arthouse Gallery in Sydney, where she is exhibiting until October 4.
Which five words best describe you? Patient, intuitive, obsessive, interested, eclectic.
How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I have always painted. Both my grandmothers painted. My father is a ceramicist. I grew up in an artistic environment. I live in the country. I studied art at Charles Sturt University and the Riverina College of Tafe in Albury but the catalyst was moving to the city to doing my Masters of Visual Art at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. Being exposed to what VCA had to offer - the lecturers, the library, the other students, the inspiring environment was definitely a turning point in my career. My work was exhibited to a city audience, for the first time, at the VCA Graduate Exhibition and noticed by Claire Harris from Flinders Lane Gallery. My career has taken off from there and I’m now fortunate to be represented by two incredibly supportive galleries – FLG and Arthouse Gallery, Sydney.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Painting is a joint effort between the paint and the artist. Insisting on my own way is often a road to disaster. I’ve learnt that it is in the praxis that a painting takes shape, you have to be open to the possibilities of what can happen on the canvas. I recognise that the best paintings come to me as a gift. That one painting can’t say it all. And to know when things go wrong that courage isn’t always a roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.”
What was the starting point for this exhibition? “An Intimate Landscape” was inspired by a recent trip to China, which renewed my interest in ancient Chinese aesthetics in landscape painting. The idea that landscape painting was no longer about the description of the visible world but a means of conveying what is felt has founded the works in this show.
What’s your proudest career achievement? Being invited to exhibit alongside Sally Gabori and Aida Tomescu in the Action Abstraction Exhibition at the Wangaratta Regional Art Gallery was for me a pivotal moment.
What’s been your best decision? For my career, it was to do a Masters Degree in Visual Art at VCA.
Who inspires you? My partner and our daughter, they are my rock and my inspiration, they encourage me to live a courageous life. The artists whose work inspires me are William Turner, Edouard Vuillard, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Cy Twombly, Claude Monet, Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz and the ancient Japanese and Chinese landscape artists.
What are you passionate about? Art and, in particular, painting. Paint and how to apply it to the surface; I delight in the response it gives me. The space between a painting and the viewer and what happens in that ineffable expanse can be so moving. I adore my garden, growing things, tending to it and sharing the harvest, all very satisfying.
Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? William Shakespeare.
What dream do you still want to fulfil? I dream about doing an artist residency in Venice at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica. Being surrounded by artistic and inspirational people, and painting the water and the light there.
What are you reading? I have two books on the go. A little book on Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren and Mapping our World Terra Incognita to Australia.