small talk // daniel herr // painter

i recently rediscovered my love for painting through the work of a friend of a friend, daniel herr. my favorite gallery gal and close friend ellen introduced us this year and the two of us had the opportunity to visit his studio some sundays ago. daniel is a painter based in brooklyn and he's about to depart for two month long residencies, one in barcelona, spain and one in beijing, china. dan says, "all painting is some level of storytelling for me." he makes large abstract paintings using oil paint, acrylic, chalk pastel and charcoal. daniel starts by drawing without color, with little idea of what the end result will be. he works on his paintings for a long time, usually four at a time, starting simple and slowly building on basic forms and shapes. his work isn't about one thing; it's about multiple meanings. daniel references different objects and images, connecting the picture like a collage or a stream of consciousness. when a period of confusion strikes, dan will go see art to get inspired. and with the influence of technology, dan is constantly and deliberately choosing what to ignore. 

more about daniel below:

cultureisland: tell us more about you.

daniel herr: i'm from mill valley, california. i went to u.c. davis and boston university for art school, if you want to call it that. i learned the most about painting from just working in the studio. my teachers taught me how to think and then not listen to them. i originally studied music. my brother is a musician, but i'm not anymore. i let him worry about all that stuff. 

cultureisland: tell us more about your paintings.

daniel herr: i've always been drawn to gestural painting but i like pretty much all painting. i also like people who are really into other things like conceptual art who can tell me about it, since i don't do it or follow it that closely. i'm just into the painted image, getting lost in the story of the painted image. i paint environments. and i'm trying to communicate what it's like to be an artist in 2015, and sometimes even i don't know what that feels like. the work has changed most from meeting peers who see things differently. they either point out your smug self-centeredness, bore you, or blow your mind. it also just changes as you get older. you don't want to keep making the same work.

cultureisland: what is your artistic process?

daniel herr: i don't really have a formula for how i make my work. sometimes i work from photographs, or fragments of photographs. sometimes i use caricatures or symbols. the brushstroke is also its own symbol. often i make a good painting by accident, or because i was being un-disciplined, even though i think i have a pretty good painting discipline. there are a million ways to look at it. you could say "i deliberately create chaos" or "i get up every night at 3 am and put on a batman outfit." artists are always struggling to get to the new, and they don't ever seem to know exactly how to do it. the ones i've met, anyway. i just try to keep in mind that there's x amount of hours you need to spend locked in your studio, with no distractions. 

cultureisland: what role does color play in your work? are there specific colors you consistently utilize?

daniel herr: the colors are specific to each painting, to the place each painting came from. i don't know what the role of color is other than to attribute to the work some semblance of the living world. for some reason i've really liked using cerulean blue and unbleached titanium. not together though—too hideous.

cultureisland: what is your process for naming your artworks?

daniel herr: in terms of titles, i try and stay right at the edge of something absurd and something really meaningful. i have trouble naming some pictures and others i know what the name is before i even finish it. i just made a painting from a matisse postcard and i'm going to call it "blame matisse." everything has to have a name. i wish it could just have a number. in fact, i wish people could just have numbers.

cultureisland: if you had to choose any other medium, what would it be?

daniel herr: cinema has always been good to me and i'm jealous that i don't work in that medium. there seems to be so much good work being made now too. i can hardly keep up. just in the past year there was "nightcrawler", "irrational man," "the great beauty", and "citizenfour." but there are so many great classical filmmakers - malick, coppolla, herzog, rohmer, wenders, bergman, polanski. every time i see "amadeus" or "chinatown" i think: why didn't i make that? 

cultureisland: who are some of your favorite artists?

daniel herr: guston, hofmann, monet, frankenthaler, picasso, hockney, peter saul and krzysztof wodiczko.

cultureisland: what are you listening to right now?

daniel herr: i like to listen to football games or lectures. if i'm listening to something really difficult i try and do some menial task, and if i'm really zoned in i don't listen to anything. it's weird because it's now another kind of bodily function for working people, having headphones in and carrying on in two worlds simultaneously. i like to think about how painters once lived when there wasn't anything to listen to but the brush. music is its own thing. i get that artists in new york have to plug in so they can cancel out the noise with good noise. there's a radio station in danbury, ct i listen to sometimes and late at night they play death metal. that's fun.

* check out more of daniel's work here // instagram *