It always comes down to painting, René Daniëls once said, a statement that resonates with some dissonance across a body of work permeated through and through with writing, word games, literary references, visual puns, and allusions to art movements, institutions, and mass media. On this painting by Daniëls Painting on Unknown Languages, one is firstly being immersed by the deep blue colour. This appears to be some kind of invitation from the artist to the viewer, to step into the painting. Eventually when you distance yourself from the wide canvas, the painting seems a large abstracted image of an empty room. Looking closer one sees its interior lit by sad, tiny windows, looks across at the actual and more optimistic windows.
In his open and sketchy manner of painting, Daniëls seems to be translating specific visual qualities into paint on a canvas. According to Daniëls, there will always be an end to the transparency of the paint. This work belongs to the period in which Daniëls came up with the motif of a bow tie decorated with a series of small rectangles, which was at the same time a perspectivally skewed view of the back and side walls of an interior space, punctuated with windows or hung with pictures. These canvases, dated from 1984 onwards, are animated by fluid brushstrokes, broad fields of color laid down in transparent and semi-opaque layers, and forms that have been flattened, simplified, or outlined. One has a strong sense of painterly spontaneity and control, of free gesture and concentrated reflection.
Emerging around 1978 with solo shows in the Netherlands, Daniëls, who was born in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven, not far from the Belgian border, gained international attention with his inclusion in Documenta VII, Westkunst in Cologne, and Zeitgeist in Berlin. A subsequent stay in New York and one-person exhibitions at Gallery Metro Pictures in '84 and '85, marked the onset of critical scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic. Late in 1987, at the age of thirty-seven, the artist suffered a stroke, which marked the end of a fruitful period in Dutch art history.
Daniëls painted another version of this work (see; Exh.cat., René Daniëls, Stedelijk van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven, 1999, p. 78 (ill.).