Modern Dutch Master Daan van Golden At Camden Arts Centre

By Culture24 Staff | 02 December 2008
A picture of a Buddha's head created with flowers

Buddha, which was created between 1971 and 1973, uses dried flowers on canvas. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

Exhibition Preview - Daan van Golden at Camden Arts Centre from Friday December 5 2008 until February 8 2009.

Previews of Daan van Golden’s display at Camden Arts Centre, which opens on Friday, have unfailingly expressed surprise that it has taken so long for works by the mysterious Dutch master of critical observation to be debuted in the UK.

It's an understandable reaction given the admiration his perfectionist style holds across Europe. Van Golden has largely stayed off the public radar, a predicament Contemporary Magazine suggested was due to his position as “too much of an artist’s artist”.

When he represented his country at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999, with a retrospective of more than 30 years of artistic activity, Commissioner Karel Schampers argued that his subversive approach and reclusive nature sat uneasily with expectations of accessibility.

A picture of an intricate motif in red oil on white canvas

Heerenlux, 2003. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

Van Golden cuts a fascinating figure artistically and biographically. Having received sporadic painting lessons from a Jesuit priest during his childhood in 1940s Rotterdam, he went on to live in cities as disparate as Paris, Tokyo, Barcelona and Marrakech, including spells as a fashion photographer in London, villainous extra work in gangster films in Tokyo and as an English teacher.

A picture of an interesting, splodgy motif in black oil on white canvas

Study Pollock, 1996. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

It is Zen philosophy, inspired by his hero Yves Klein, which seems to have most informed his work. He began painting copies of scraps from floral motifs in the 1960s as a meditative past-time, and it is these elaborations which are his most illuminating.

Reworking apparently simple, everyday patterns into complex adaptations, his work is notable for the variation of techniques behind their immense intricacy and upon closer inspection they invariably challenge pre-conceived perceptions.

A picture of a long red symbol in oil on white canvas

Study H.M., 2002. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

This meticulous style also goes some way to explaining his minimal exposure to the wider world. Van Golden often used a quote from his poetic fellow countryman Roland Holst, “art is not a contest,” to account for his painstaking attention to detail, a methodology which has seen lengthy spans between his output cycles.

A picture of a photo of Daan van Golden's daughter kissing a small bird at a window ledge

Schiedam, Youth is an Art, 1992/2008. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

The birth of his daughter, Diana, in 1978 saw van Golden embark on a photographic chronicling of her childhood. The results, Youth is an Art (named after an Oscar Wilde quote) will also feature in the exhibition alongside an atmospheric new installation by Andro Wekua drawing from his painful and violent upbringing in Georgia.

A picture of Daan van Golden's daugher standing against her radiator as a teenager, with a bowl haircut and red top

Schiedam, Youth is an Art, 1996. © Daan van Golden, courtesy Galerie Micheline Szwajcer, Antwerp and Green Naftali Gallery, New York

Professor David Rayson, Head of Painting at the Royal College of Art, leads an informal tour of the Daan van Golden and Andro Wekua exhibitions with the artists on Thursday December 4 at 5.45pm. Call 020 7472 5500. The exhibition runs until February 8 2009.

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