Monday, 4 October 2010

Rene Daniels on Art21

René Daniëls is a really, really good painter, maybe even a great painter, who stopped painting twenty-three years ago and has only resumed in the last two years. In 1987, he suffered a brain aneurysm from which he still hasn’t fully recovered, and some of his recent work, shown alongside his ’80s painting in the current show at the Camden Arts Centre, has a tentativeness you might expect from someone gradually returning to a loved activity. What must it be like for Daniëls, seeing his earlier paintings – richly colored, exuberant, mischievous oils – laid out here, with his more recent pieces – small-scale, scrawly felt-tip revivals of earlier motifs – dotted among them? It’s a reminder, at least, that for an artist, the past is always present, like a rebuke.

What makes Daniëls’s sudden halt so moving – and his current return so heartening, and quietly triumphant – is the sheer blazing visual excitement his paintings release. Daniëls is, first and foremost, a whipper-upper of retinal delight. His 1987 painting, The Return of the Performance, is a case in point. A zoomingly recessive perspectival space (a sort of three-walled room, like a stage set, that sometimes detaches itself from illustration and becomes, in other works, a kind of levitating bow-tie) creates a setting for the display of primary colored boxes and planes, like a painting of a Donald Judd installation made in enthusiastic recall. Paint slips and slides across the surfaces of things, just describing enough, never telling everything. In the center, a microphone stand with seven protruberances stands in a pool of milky light, and a figure peers in shadow from behind a wall, as if preparing to make a speech. The theme of performance recurs in Daniëls’s work (when human presences appear, they’re theatrical, dandyish flaneurs, as in his Cocoanuts of 1982), and the paintings themselves feel psyched-up-for, generated by nervy energy and stage fright.

Read the whole article here.

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