Ian Davenport and Jo Melvin on Sol LeWitt
Jo Melvin: You told me you were drawn to dichotomies between Pollock and LeWitt’s work.
Ian Davenport: I was attracted to the physical way that Pollock dealt with materials and his balletic, fluid gestures. I liked the performative aspect of his painting, but I did struggle with some of the discourse around his work. I was also looking for something that wasn’t as mystical as Pollock’s approach. I was interested in LeWitt and bought a book on his work. I like the way he described the contents of the work, the way it was made, and what it was made on. I found that straight forward and accessible. The demystification of what art could be about, seemed incredibly liberating. I guess I was trying to pull those two elements together and looking at those two artists seemed to highlight an important way of giving the more physical aspects of my painting a kind of neutrality.
Melvin: LeWitt makes drawings that are instructions and also which are enacted by assistants. Could you say something about that relationship?
Davenport: The instructions and procedure are interesting. I actually tried to giving instructions to people to make my paintings, but I realised that touch and making my own work was very important. I could get assistants to make certain things, but again it was a sort of distancing device. The titles of LeWitt’s works were straightforward and the descriptions of the titles were something that I look for in my own work. The series of paintings made with an electric fan, simply became The Electric Fan Paintings, and in a way that took away from the romantic reading of those particular paintings. They could have been read in all sorts of different ways, and it just grounded them, and made them about materiality again.
There is something else about LeWitt, which is really interesting for me; as his career developed, he enjoyed the reality of the things that the works are made from. It is not painterly in the more expected way: it is the dryness of the pencil that is rubbed and rubbed and rubbed. It is the gorgeous pastel smeared into walls. Those sorts of things are very seductive, but may be over looked.