Multifaceted and complex, the work of René Daniëls (Eindhoven, Holland, 1950) reactivates and reformulates certain key elements of the historical avant-garde movements, attempting to connect the visual arts to literature and to daily life. Irony, ambiguity and double-entendre play a major role in his work, which is also rife with the frictions between abstraction and figuration, between reality and representation. Closer to René Magritte, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and Marcel Broodthaers than to the neoexpressionist artists of the 1980s with whom he is frequently associated, Daniëls understands painting to be something like fleece, like a play of appearances and disappearances, while at the same time believing that a work of art cannot be detached from its social context and that artists must avoid any inclination towards hermeticism and self-absorption.
His paintings, full of ironic allusions and cross-references that appear only upon close inspection, are intriguing and evocative. In them, René Daniëls, who always wanted his work to remain open to interpretation at as many levels as possible, plays with language and poetry, with the tension between figure and content, with opacity and transparency, creating an atmosphere that is unreal and yet familiar, that is disconcerting and captivating at the same time. They are paintings that make an appeal to the imagination and have a common link: just as important as what you see is what you do not see.
This exhibition explores the visual and conceptual complexity of his work, and in so doing it rethinks the social and cultural context in which it arose. The show presents a broad selection of works dated from the 1970s to 1987 (the year he had a stroke that prevented him from continuing his pictorial activity): paintings, graphics, some of his earliest pieces, characterised by their expressionist brushstrokes, and the arboreal cartographies and diagrams of his Lentebloesem series. Furthermore, the exhibition, the title of which comes from a text written by Daniëls himself (and which somehow synthesises his aesthetic discourse), also includes various materials and documents (notebooks, sketches, annotations...) from the artist's archives. Among these items is a super-8 film made by Daniëls, which shows an artistic and cultural scene -the punk counterculture of the 1970s and 80s- that marked his life and career as an artist.
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (May 12 - September 2, 2012)