René Daniëls

drawings and paintings 1977-1987

12 May - 26 August 2007
work in collection

Poetic and mysterious, but also astute and humorous: the body of work produced by René Daniëls (Eindhoven 1950) from 1977 to 1987 remains as intriguing as it was at that time. Now, almost ten years since the last large retrospective of his work was held, De Pont is organizing a summer presentation of his drawings, along with about twenty paintings. The majority of the roughly 120 works on paper, many of which have not been exhibited before, are being lent by the René Daniëls Foundation. This foundation is responsible for hundreds of drawings and approximately ninety paintings that were present in Daniëls’s studio when he suffered a stroke at the end of 1987.

The exhibition has been compiled by Jaap Bremer, former deputy director of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, in close collaboration with Marleen Gijsen and the René Daniëls Foundation.

Drawing was a natural part of Daniëls’s artistry from the start. His first exhibition, shared with Hans Biezen at the Stadt-Sparkasse in Düsseldorf in 1977, consisted mostly of drawings. Among the works now being shown at De Pont are a few of those early drawings with enormous dimensions of at least 150 by 190 centimeters. They have been drawn with lines, bars, ovals and blocks that seem to float on the white surface of the image. In those rhythmic structures, motifs that appear in paintings from these years can also be discerned: gramophone records, books and skateboards.

To an even greater extent than with the isolated drawings, one sees the importance that Daniëls attached to this medium in the dozens of developed sketches produced by him as ideas for paintings, as variations on existing compositions and particularly as visual reflections of his musings and mental leaps. In one of his notes, he writes, ‘I always found fruitful ideas more interesting than the complete development of those ideas.’ Thus the drawings contain a wealth of ideas and motifs that are continually given new consideration, and sometimes these have found their way into the painting.

At times the works on paper shed surprising light on those known motifs. A drawing of a three-part church window, behind which two mitered clergymen can be seen with a nun above them, might be one of the musings that led to the painting Twee I’s strijdend om 1 punt (Two I’s Fighting over 1 Dot) (1985). Behind the simple-looking composition of two bars and a circle lies an ambiguous play between abstraction and figuration, spatiality and two-dimensionality, between the title and the image. A large group of drawings can be related to Daniëls’s best known series of paintings that bears the title Mooie tentoonstellingen (Nice Exhibitions). One of these is the pencil drawing Een zaal boven de Pacific (A Room above the Pacific; 1984), in which Daniëls has shown himself wearing a bow tie, which can also be interpreted as an exhibition space. The motif recurs in all sorts of forms: sometimes as a tersely rendered setting for paintings, sometimes as an actual space complete with pot belly stove and sometimes even as a form that remains elusive, suddenly transforming into a bow tie, a butterfly, a spool of thread, diabolo, fish or hat.