‘The paintings that I start exist already. They only have to be realised’ —D. van Golden
A work of striking visual clarity and formidable intellectual endeavour, Daan van Golden’s Schilderij 1964 Recht van Voren Gezien (1965) subverts the premise of painting with methodical precision. Criss-crossing over the surface of the canvas, bands of golden yellow and translucent white enamel capture the exact likeness of Van Golden’s painting of the previous year, Compositie met Gele Ruit (Composition with Yellow Square). Off-centre in this new composition, as if hanging on an anonymous wall, the earlier painting now casts a prominent shadow, the greys of its gradient meticulously delineated by the artist. One of the earliest examples of the processes of appropriation and reformulation which define Van Golden’s oeuvre, this work marks the intersection of two of the artist’s most significant early series – the Golden Patterns and the White Paintings. Examples of these early works are, for the most part, held in museum collections: in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Amongst these works, Schilderij 1964 Recht van Voren Gezien is uniquely distinguished by an exceptional provenance – for a period of some thirty years, it resided in the collection of the artist Paul Beckman, who acquired this work from Van Golden, as part of a reciprocal relationship through which the artists supported and encouraged each other in the years of their friendship and artistic collaboration.
In 1963, after a lengthy voyage through Asia, Van Golden arrived in Tokyo, Japan. Already a painter of black and white gestural abstractions, one morning, in part to take his mind off his artistic frustrations, and in part inspired by the meditative ideas of stillness and quiet promoted by the Zen visual arts, Van Golden decided to replicate the design of a red and white sheet of paper he had found on his studio floor. This act of appropriation marked the beginning of a series titled Golden Patterns (1963-1964), in which the artist recreated, with perfect fidelity, the designs found on napkins, handkerchiefs and wrapping papers. Elevating the quintessential consumer object to the subject of high art, these works bear an affinity to Pop Art, particularly to the work of the young Sigmar Polke, who, in works such as Heron Painting II (1968), delighted in the visual disturbance which the brash and garish patterns of commercially-available textiles brought to his works. Yet Schilderij 1964 Recht van Voren Gezien, based on Compositie met Gele Ruit, based in turn on a handkerchief motif, has a disciplined emphasis on rigour and order which recalls the work of the forefather of European abstraction, Piet Mondrian. Works such as New York City, 1942 (1941-1942) share Van Golden’s interest in the precision of the perpendicular line, the purity of geometrical form, and a purposefully flat palette of red, yellow and blue.
Each of Van Golden’s works is not only an autonomous painting, but also an entity which can be referenced, copied, altered, or simply repeated. These processes of appropriation form the overarching motif of the artist’s work, and his oeuvre is less a collection of discrete works, than a growing accretion of echoes and self-references. ‘His art mirrors itself,’ Emiliano Battista writes of this tendency, ‘and the layering of reflections reveals an art of references, parallels and allusions founded on Van Golden’s confidence in the aesthetic and signifying reserves of an image, a form, a procedure’ (E. Battista, Daan van Golden Photo Book(s), London 2013, p. 4). Where, in later series, Van Golden would appropriate from other artists – a single parakeet from a Henri Matisse cut-out; the silhouette of a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti; details of Jackson Pollock’s drips, enlarged so much that their looping forms begin to resemble faces and animals – in Schilderij 1964 Recht van Voren Gezien, he repaints his work of one year earlier, reducing it in size and painting it as if it casts a shadow on the wall. In 1966, in the series White Paintings, exhibited at Documenta IV in 1968 in the room adjacent to Yves Klein, Van Golden would explore this premise further, depicting a blank white canvas alternately floating, receding or leaning in a milky blue space. In Schilderij 1964 Recht van Voren Gezien, the artist embarks on his exploration of the distinction between reality and representation, between original and reproduction, a concern which foreshadows the preoccupations of the Pictures Generation artists by some twenty years. Intersecting the grid of modernism with the vernacular Pop object, in this work Van Golden creates an elegantly reductive meditation on the veracity of the painted image.