Jerome Davenport: Boundless Portraiture

jerome2If you’re traveling the streets of Perth, a small city in Western Australia, you’ll be greeted by a decorative display. An array of massive murals and intricate portraits that create a veritable macro-art gallery. The city, which was once infamously dubbed “Dullsville” by fellow Australians, has embraced a modern-day Renaissance in the realm of art. Artists and art enthusiasts are breathing new life into the city with creativity and ingenuity. One of the key purveyors of this booming art scene is visual street artist Jerome Davenport. As an emerging artist, he is ushering in a new era for artistic expression in Western Australia. jerome3 native of Wickepin, Davenport lived in a small, rural town in the Wheatbelt region of Perth. He became interested in graffiti and aerosol art at a young age. In an interview with Perth-based Rotunda Media, Davenport said that he, like most aerosol artists, gravitated to this form of art due to “being a little juvenile delinquent.” While most people would view this as petty vandalism, he utilized it as an artistic outlet and gained an appreciation for street art. Prior to its recent artistic explosion, Perth was severely lacking in cultural venues and aspiring artists had limited professional opportunities. The city was mostly known for agriculture and mining. Naturally, art was not a priority. Davenport instead went against the grain and eventually attended the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. As a student, he expanded his knowledge of art and studied other forms of painting including airbrush and large scale paintings.

Although he was always enthralled with painting, the aspiring artist never envisioned creating art for a living. Art was simply his passion and he dedicated himself to the craft. Fortunately, he and other artists have benefitted from Perth’s new found love for art. Since 2011, Perth has revamped its image and allocated government funds for various cultural projects. Davenport explained to Rotunda Media how this cultural enlightenment has impacted local artists. “People are realizing that you can do this and actually live. 10 years ago there was no way that you could make money from this. It’s fine, as long as you can make yourself employable and you have a style that’s unique enough to separate you from everyone else.”

Since graduating from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Davenport has gone on to paint murals and portraits professionally. He’s even launched his own company called Blank Walls which paints murals on local buildings and businesses in Perth. As an artistic innovator, he has transformed normal edifices into scenic masterpieces. One of his ventures included the painting of a mural outside of the Zattoun Grill and Café in the suburb of Redfern, Perth. The mural depicts a woman with a veiled head and lower face. The focus is immediately directed at her blue, vibrant eyes. She has a mysterious gaze which entices passersby to enter the restaurant. Simply by creating this mural, Davenport has vitalized the building. Something that was once an ordinary restaurant can now be viewed as an artistic marvel.

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Davenport also has an impressive archive on his Instagram profile. I was stunned by the intricacy of his portraits. The detailed facial expressions, textures, and lines are simply staggering. It’s almost as if Davenport has vivified these paintings. He deftly recreates evocative and captivating visages of his subjects. For many of his pieces, he uses unconventional canvasses. Anything from walls, tables, and even surfboards serve as suitable mediums. One particularly impressive piece is a grayscale portrait of an unnamed woman with her eyes closed. She has a pensive expression on her face as she’s drenched by water. The gray and black shades create a melancholic atmosphere and perfectly encapsulate her mood. Aside from his obvious talent, I appreciate Davenport’s authenticity. When I look at his artwork, I don’t sense any pretension. He simply renders his vision into paintings. As Davenport explained to Rotunda Media, “Some people take it the wrong way, some people don’t, but it’s art, it’s meant to be subject to scrutiny. Everyone’s got their own opinion, but most of my works don’t have a full ‘art speech’ about what they mean and that kind of thing. I just leave it up to people to interpret what they want […] You could look at something and think ‘wow that brings back a childhood memory’ or as simple as ‘that [kid’s] pulling a funny face.’”

Davenport’s contributions are uplifting the Perth community and altering people’s perceptions of the entire Western Australia. In September 2014, he gained a prominent client when Australian Football League player Nic Naitanui contacted him for a project. Davenport painted a mural of New York rapper A$AP Rocky in Naitanui’s house and subsequently gained 400 new followers on Instagram when Naitanui posted a photo of the completed mural. He also painted a portrait of English model Cara Delevingne in the Little Wing Corner Gallery in the Subiaco district of Perth. He’s also been involved in charitable endeavors and recently collaborated with other Australian street artists for the Paterson building project in Melbourne earlier this year. Artists painted several floors of the building with the proceeds of the event going to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Jerome Davenport is evolving as an artist and broadening his horizons. He’s painted murals in Brooklyn, Berlin and London, and plans on bringing his talents to other countries. Through his work, Davenport is showing that Western Australia has artistic credibility, and he’s taking street art to new heights.

-Elijah Yarbrough