René Daniëls

Helen van der Meij Gallery

In René Daniëls’ enigmatic canvas Pass in Review, two figures are engaged in an obscure conversation. The male, who carries a sort of funnel on his head, is attached by the back to an umbilical-type cord which is being sliced through by a giant pair of scissors. This can be interpreted as an apt summary of Daniëls’ mentality: let the past pass in review, but prepare for a new start.

Daniëls has been relinquishing the luxurious use of paint that involved his earlier work in a whirl of exuberant action. While he has been applying his brilliant colors more sparingly for some time, they are now even more restrained, more finely nuanced. A painting titled Alone At Last, of a woman in a bed blissfully bobbing in the sea, is quite a contrast with the purply rats of the series “From London to Ghent,” which Daniëls showed at Westkunst last year and which describes a passage through a dark underworld.

Despite Daniëls’ usual balancing-on-a-knife-edge act, this work calls up feelings of liberation. The artist’s language of images works without big themes—like Francis Picabia and Sigmar Polke, he uses imaginative strength to give form to a private world. His images and colors are of extreme daring and always reach beyond the boundaries of expectation that at first they summon up. Categorization is constantly revoked. A magnificent canvas presents us with one round and two oblong windows which shine in a dark night. But the title, Two i’s Fight Over a Dot, sets one on different lines. Daniëls challenges, using at one moment the naive and at the next the sophisticated to articulate his vision.

Paul Groot

Translated from the Dutch by Michael Latcham.