Glasgow born, Amsterdam based, painter Daniel Mullen on his upcoming exhibition Space, Time & Architecture at Cityscapes…

Daniel Mullen Contractable Space

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Daniel Mullen – Contractable Space

Synthetic polymer on canvas. 50 x 60 x 3.5cm.

Can you tell us about your latest work for the upcoming exhibition Space Shapes & Space Volumes at Cityscapes Gallery, Amsterdam?

For this new series of works I decided to restrict myself to two colours and a two dimensional surface that through repetition could create the illusion of a three dimensional object/form where the scale is left to the imagination of the viewer. The reason for restricting my pallet and motif is to allow my subconscious to explore and wonder thinking as little as possible. The images may seem predetermined as if constructed in CAD, but this is not the case I am constantly turning the paintings around and resolving questions the paintings pose. So the restrictions are also in place to make this process manageable.

Franck-Gribling-Paintings

Frank Gibling – Spacecubes | Curved Spacebeams

1967. Silkscreen & Perspex/Astralon

Bringing your work together with Franck Gribling’s architectural fantasies from the 60s sounds like a great fit – is he an artist you particularly admire?

Franck Gribling was born in the memorable year 1933, on the southern hemisphere, in Surabya, Indonesia. From 1942-1945 he was imprisoned in Japanese camps before migrating to the Netherlands in 1946. He started painting in 1948 with painting lessons from Stien Eelsingh in Staphorst. Gribling admired the abstract-surrealist painter Piet Ouborg and was stimulated by the expressionist artist Jan Wiegers and the abstract painter Willy Boers. Meetings with Karel Appel and Theo Wolvecamp, who went on to start the Cobra movement in the autumn of 1949. Gribling developed a related primitive style, using the material qualities of paint. A choice of works from this period (1948-1952) is collected in the Museum of Schiedam.

The work of Gribling has gone through many transformations since he started painting in 1948, I feel especially connected to his work from the 60’s and 70’s although our methods are very different there is an uncanny relationship between Gribling’s work from that period and my current work. I feel honoured to be able to exhibit along side him and am excited to see how this exhibition will unfold, to see what kind of dialogue will rise up through bringing our works together in this manner.

Your website bio talks about your childhood fascination with constructed space. Are your oil paints just a more fluid form of Lego!?

Since January I have crossed over to painting in acrylics, the directness of building something in lego is not so easy in oil paint, as drying times for each layer is rather tedious. So I would say that now I feel much closer to the feeling I had as a child painting in acrylics.

Daniel Mullen - Modular Expansion

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Daniel Mullen – Modular Expansion

2015. Synthetic polymer on canvas. 40 x 40 x 3.5cm (15.7 x 15.7 x 1.4in)

After growing up in Scotland how do you think studying and living in Amsterdam has impacted your work?

It is hard to meter the impact as in a sense I am a product of my surroundings. The Netherlands has a long rich tradition within architecture and formalistic abstract painting for example the movement De Stijl (the style) Neoplaticism, with such artists as Van Doesburg, Mondriaan and the architect Gerrit Rietveld or even the work of Constant Nieuwenhuys. Architecture has always played an important role in how i experience the world around me. So being surrounded but such a tradition has played a critical role in the development of my aesthetics.

Daniel Mullen - Spatial Inception

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Daniel Mullen – Spatial Inception

Acrylic on Canvas. 45 x 65 x 2cm

Your recent paintings seem to be reducing things down to essential elements. How would you describe your journey from representation to abstraction or would you use different terms?

The current series is indeed a reduction, but I’m not of the intention to continue to reduce in a linear fashion. I see all my series as ongoing researches into form, space and emptiness. Sometimes it seems necessary to reduce and in other moments it seems necessary to explode into what might seem like a constructed chaos. To me it seems like a breathing process. However looking back at earlier works from around 2011 I was reproducing existing architecture from photos i made For example the image below untitled space No.07 (based on the interior of the museum of Scotland in Edinburgh)

Daniel Mullen - Untitled Space No 7

Daniel Mullen – Untitled Space No 7

2011. 150cm x 300cm, Oil on canvas.

Funnily enough I was already searching for some form of abstraction. At that time it came in the form of the title. The works from that period, were studies on how to transpose the image to the canvas and practice perspective, light, form and colour.

Since then the work has become less literal, meaning that not everything in the image is or can be explained. The interest in emptiness has not changed but the way in which I want to communicate with the viewer has.

Daniel Mullen - Augmenting Space

Daniel Mullen – Augmenting Space

Exhibiting @cityscapes gallery until April. Acrylic on canvas. 120 x 105 x 4.5cm (47.2 x 41.3 x 1.8in)

Looking at your work I’m reminded of George Herbert’s quip “A man may look on glass, on it may stay his eye or if he pleases through it pass, and there the heaven espy”. What interests you in the back and forth between surface and depth, solidity and fleetingness?

I’m in a constant state of flux between illusion and surface, the illusion of a painting as a window and paint as material. Transparency in layers is for me a way to deal with the issues of painting as an illusion, to embrace it, not to deny it, to share it. A painting is purely a material object nothing more but it has the potential to live inside the mind of the viewer. At that moment the painting comes into being, it becomes more than an object, but this is fleeting.

Daniel Mullen - Oscillating Horizon

Daniel Mullen – Oscillating Horizon

Exhibiting @cityscapes gallery until April. Acrylic on canvas. 200 x 200 x 4.5cm

What’s a typical day working day for you?

Going to the studio around 10am checking emails looking at my work and painting until late in the evening, with a few rounds of ping pong in between.

Daniel Mullen - Optical Structure

Daniel Mullen – Optical Structure

Now unavailable. Acrylic on canvas. 70 x 60 x 4.5cm (27.6 x 23.6 x 1.8in)

What have you found to be the best outlets (and biggest challenges) for selling your work?

The biggest challenge was letting go of the perception that art school gave me. That art is sacred and the monetary value of an artwork is a dirty thing. Holding on to this ideal is creating the stereotype of the starving artist. It is unnecessary and I think the integrity of the artist and their work is not lost when one starts to think in an entrepreneurial way.

In Holland we had something called the (wikk) financial aid from the government – this was specifically to support artists in the first four years after art school. I was fortunate enough to to be able to use this for six months before it got scrapped in 2012 due to the financial crisis. I think art schools should also have a responsibility in preparing their students for life after school (especially since that external support has gone). I’m not ashamed of the fact that this influenced my decision to focus on painting as i knew that, that had the possibility to create a viable income.

The time has been and gone when the artist was at the mercy of the gallery, the online art market has seen to that. This is a time when artists can create a brand and sell that brand to a worldwide audience. This is helpful as it allows artists space and time in the studio to produce, develop and follow their interests.

Selling online has been very beneficial as it allows me more time in the studio. I also have the same feeling I had in art school, feeling free to explore and find out new things within my work. But at the same time it is important realise that the online CV of sales is not any less important than your real world CV – it is important to invest time in both.

Daniel Mullen Constructing the Horizon

Daniel Mullen – Constructing the Horizon

Exhibiting @cityscapes gallery until April. Acrylic on canvas. 180 x 140 x 4.5cm

Is there one piece of advice you would you give someone just leaving art school about to venture out into the world as an artist?

No matter where you studied you will be a product of that school. So it is paramount to remember who you are, what you want and where you want to go. The teachers you had will not be there to criticise you, you must do that yourself. No one has any expectations of you, there is always someone more interesting. So the only thing you can do is get as close to yourself as possible produce like a madman and don’t be afraid to fail. There is no formula for everyone the path is different be serious with your work but don’t forget to play.

SPACE SHAPES & SPACE VOLUMES will run from March 6 to April 4 at Cityscapes Gallery, Piet Hein Buildings, Piet Heinkade 61, Amsterdam.

To see more of Daniel’s paintings see our Daniel Mullen feature.

You can keep up to date with Daniel’s work at danielmullen.info and via Facebook & Twitter.