René Daniëls

Eindhoven NL 1950, lives in Eindhoven

In December 1987 René Daniëls suffered a stroke from which he has not entirely recovered. This has put an end to a painterly adventure that has led to one of the most intriguing oeuvres in the postwar art of the Netherlands. His work – both lucid and enigmatic, humorous but also shrewd and intelligent – betrays the mercurial movement of his artistry. Daniëls considers himself a kindred spirit of Duchamp, Picabia and Broodthaers, artists who pursued not so much the development of a style but the chance to take different routes time and again. He once referred to his field of activity as ‘the former no man’s land between literature, visual art and life.’

Gent (Ghent) (1980-1981) is a portrait of the city in two senses. The broadly sketched painting shows a row of houses that seem to have come to life. Between the stepped gables, there emerge big noses; it is as though the houses are whispering something into each other’s ears. Their mutterings spread through the night, just as the architecture progresses effortlessly into the dark sky. This strange painting manifests mental restlessness, but also great poetic imagination.

Het Glazen (The Glazed) (1984) shows a tall building, whose interior is lit in the twilight. The windows have been left open on a watery blue surface which covers the rest of the canvas. Due to a slight distortion of the perspective, the upper windows seem to become detached from the facade. And this transforms the face of the building into a moving, melancholy illusion: windows are released from the confines of perspective and flock like butterflies into an indefinable space. (The Glazed) (1984) is from the latter series. It shows a tall building, whose interior is lit in the twilight. The windows have been left open on a watery blue surface which covers the rest of the canvas. Due to a slight distortion of the perspective, the upper windows seem to become detached from the facade. And this transforms the face of the building into a moving, melancholy illusion: windows are released from the confines of perspective and flock like butterflies into an indefinable space.

With minimal means, Het Glazen produces a maximal effect. Daniëls’s ingenious response to pictorial problems concerning perspective and representation is crystal-clear and breathtaking at the same time. Oppositions such as those between figure and ground, between that which is painted and that which has remained unpainted, between the painting as a surface and the painting as a transparent film, are brought into focus with apparently great ease. Daniëls has managed to deprive his motif – his manner of painting, even all painting – of weight. The result is a benevolent lightness: an unexpected leap beyond the heaviness and compactness of the world.