Penny Davenport UK, b. 1979

Penny Davenport (b. 1979, Inverness; UK) is a visual artist based in Liverpool (UK) whose depictions of anthropomorphic animal characters and daydreamed landscapes explore the psychological nuances of bodily experience and complexities of inter-personal relationships.


The figures that appear in Davenport’s compositions are decidedly non-human, yet perform human traits: they stand on two feet, they often cluster together holding hands, and they gaze out at the viewer with eyes that suggest feelings of empathy and understanding. They sport furry snouts, feathers and other characteristics that mark these silent gentle beings out as recognisably different to human animals. However, they also encourage a projection of conscious agency and an uncanny recognition of selfhood in their display of gestures and facial expressions, indicative of an inner life just like our own.


Having worked for many years in a number of educational establishments, including specialised schools for children with very specific pedagogic needs, Davenport’s practice is informed by a particular attention towards the ways in which humans are socialised, and the subtle mechanisms by which behavioural codes are enforced, and social grouping structures maintained. Deliberately emphasising the ambiguity of non-verbal communication, Davenport’s images are filled with displays of enigmatic body language that often conjure dissonant but co-existent emotional cues: a wince reads as both a pang of longing and fear, whilst an embrace suggests nourishment and sheltering, but also limitation and entrapment.


Whilst there is an interest in a certain kind of friendly intimacy or cartoon immediacy that underpins much of Davenport’s visual vocabulary, the work is also guided by another set of impulses that speak towards a more tragic position of experience and maturity. In many of Davenport’s images, the artist infuses a potent sense of repression, restraint, discomfort or loneliness into her work, in a way that subverts the impression of “cuteness” that is often readable at first glance. Appearing like half-remembered images from childhood, or individual frames from an incomplete narrative, Penny Davenport’s works speak to the secret lives of human minds, in all their turmoil, elation and distinctive vulnerability.


Heavily indebted to art history, but notoriously reluctant to point towards individual artists who have been particularly inspirational, Davenport’s work is in dialogue with a range of influences that include: twenty-first century Japanese painting, Scandinavian ceramic traditions and certain installation-based practices being explored by artists based between the USA, the UK and India. Penny Davenport received a BA from Liverpool John Moores University (2002) and recent exhibitions include: Andante Remix (with Ellen Gronemeyer, Catherine Biocca and Dorota Jurczak) at Linseed Projects (2021, Shanghai; CN), Murmurings at OTP Copenhagen (2021, Copenhagen; DK), Postcards at Galleri Magnus Karlsson (2021, Stockholm; SE) and Silent Ancestors at Fortnight Institute (2019, New York; USA).