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Ian Davenport’s “Doubletake” is a Candy-Colored Compendium of Sheer Delight

Artwork: Ian Davenport, Cadmium Yellow, 2016, acrylic on stainless steel mounted to aluminum panel

During the late nineteenth century, a phenomenon known as “the confession book” arose, in which participants were encouraged to answer a series of questioned designed to probe and expose their inner soul. In 1890, Marcel Proust took this questionnaire; the manuscript was uncovered in 1924, two years after his death. Proust’s answers were so frank and revealing, the questionnaire has been renamed for him. Of all the answers he provided, one has stayed with me all of these years.

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When asked his favorite color, Proust answered, “The beauty is not in colors, but in their harmony.” The depth of understanding intuited from his response speaks to the essence of color theory, a philosophy and practice by painters during the Renaissance. It deals with the basics of primary, secondary, and tertiary hues, lightness, and saturation to explore the ways in which mixing colors can new effects, then expands to explore color’s perceptual and psychological effects.

Ian Davenport, Light Blue, The Marriage, 2016, acrylic on stainless steel mounted to aluminum panel

Painters are perhaps the most sensitive to these effects, for in their very hands they wield palette and brush like alchemists. Their choices reveal the inner workings of their minds, their preferences as relevant as the subject they choose to depict, exposing a deeper level of intention. But content can easily disguise context; we are likely to take color as a given without considering the way in which it works.

British artist Ian Davenport (b. 1966) deftly explores the nature of color in historical masterpieces by dedicating his work to studying them. A new exhibition of his work, Doubletake, now on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, through October 22, presents a sumptuous selection of recent works made in acrylic on stainless steel hat are veritable waterfalls of colors selected from classic paintings from Western art made between the 16th and 20th centuries.

Ian Davenport, Primavesi Study, 2016, acrylic on stainless steel, mounted on aluminum panel, 59 1/8 x 39 3/8 inches

Consider include Van Gogh’s “The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, View from the Chevet” (1890) reduced only to its hues, the rich blues of the sky running in streams alongside the green of the law and the beige of the path, while the red of the church roof punctuates the harmony with just the right spice. Without the content telling us what to see, we can consider the nature of context that color provides. It is, as Proust understood, a pleasure that comes from harmony—and what’s more, the rhythm and syncopation that they create.

With color as his focus, Davenport takes from broad swath of periods and styles, reminding us of the beauty of the color swatch. Among the referenced works are Jan Brueghel the Elder’s “Flowers In A Wooden Vessel” (1606), “Mada Primavesi” (1912) by Gustav Klimt,, and “The Marriage of the Virgin” (1504) by the Italian Renaissance master Perugino, each offering its own inners workings for discovery.

Ian Davenport, Light Blue, The Marriage, No 2., 2016, acrylic on stainless steel, mounted on aluminum panel

The result is a sheer delight, a candy-colored compendium that evokes a childlike delight in the sheer pleasure of the physical world and the way in which this sensation fills our hearts.

All artwork:Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.