Technicolor timepiece: Ian Davenport’s Swatch is making us tick
We’ve always had time for the artist Ian Davenport. It was back in 2006 that he created an artwork for one of our limited-edition tenth anniversary covers. Davenport’s large-scale paintings, where graphic streams of glossy paint settle at their base in prismatic pools, include the 48m long Poured Lines. The biggest piece of public art in London, it is positioned beneath the Western railway bridge on Southwark Street in south London. Now the artist has unveiled his most complex experimentation with scale on a micro level, collaborating with Swatch on a limited-edition timepiece called Wide Acres of Time, launched at the Venice Biennale.
Swatch timepieces have long been canvases for visual artists. Swatch’s Art Specials collection began in 1984, when Kiki Picasso collaborated with the label on a watch design. A project with the graffiti artist Keith Haring followed a year later. His four watch designs have become some of the most collectible Swatch designs in history, and highlight the bold decision of a Swiss watchmaker to anchor itself to an emerging talent.
Swatch began partnering with the Venice Biennale in 2011, featuring its own pavilions at the city’s Arsenale Nord and Giardini locations in 2015. That year, it teamed up with the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos who created Garden of Eden, an installation of hundreds of luminescent flowers and Lookseasy, a watch with an intricate gold filigree face.
‘Colourfall’ by Ian Davenport, presented in the Giardini at the 2017 Venice Biennale
Of the collaboration with Davenport, Carlo Giordanetti, creative director of Swatch says, 'It’s the colour and the vibration, the positive energy that you get from his work.' Swatch has also supported the artist’s Colourfall, a 3.8 x 40m artwork currently on show in the Giardini.
‘Having a project that asks a lot of different questions scale wise – that’s a good discipline to get into,’ Davenport explains of the project. His watch design features a strap with different lines of colour, which come together on the dial in a swirling vortex. While the artist’s pieces usually feature puddles at their bases, the watch contains a swirling circle of colour at its centre. ‘I love the way the colours are being pulled into the middle,’ he explains. ‘You see that effect in lots of natural things, like whirlpools or when water drains down the sink.’
Also a first for Davenport is his creation of a large-scale puddle artwork away from the space it will be exhibited in. Colourfall features over 1,000 colours applied using syringes, which pool together in marbled paisley-like patterns. ‘When we do installations, paint usually goes onto the floor of the gallery,’ Davenport adds. ‘We made this piece in transportable panels. The floor was the most difficult part. We actually made it on very thin sheets of metal, and then when the paint had come down and dried, we were then able to cut that out. It took a lot of engineering.’
‘Sometimes you need a project to push you a bit more,’ Davenport says of the effect of creating the vortex focused Wide Acres of Time. ‘That's something I want to play around with even more, because I’ve started to feel like there are new ways I can take my paintings’. For Giordanetti, this is the greatest success of the collaboration. ‘To imagine that Ian will explore a new visual language based around a question relating to the design of the watch is fantastic,’ he says. ‘This could not be the ending point but the starting point.’ The clock is ticking.