Art & Culture

Brush poetry: Daniel Domig's digressions on beauty

Daniel Domig's works are large-format, colour-intensive and dynamic. At the centre of his subjects are often human bodies, which allow the viewer to begin a game of ideally a free dialogue with the pictures.
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On that morning when L'Officiel Austria met Daniel Domig, the thermometer was already showing high summer temperatures. The meeting place is his studio. "Everyone was made for a certain work, and the desire for that work was put into his heart" - that quote by Rumi flashes through your mind when you are in this studio. Everywhere you look, there are tools and traces of someone who devotes himself to his work in an earthy way. The air in the rooms smells hard to define and natural. "Hare-skin glue," Domig replies nonchalantly in the direction of perplexed nostrils. After a brief lecture on the history and merits of said binding material, we plunge into the morning bustle of Vienna's seventh district to continue the conversation in a café. Its foundations. When we ask Daniel Domig what paved his way to painting, we learn that his bi-national home led him there in a rather discreet way. "My family background provided a range of options, so it wasn't at all out of the question to choose the artistic profession." Born in Vancouver, Canada, to an American mother from Illinois and an Austrian father from Vorarlberg, he learned early on to move in contrasting milieus and to endure the tensions in between.

Although both parents work professionally in a therapeutic environment, it is precisely this detail that provides a crucial contribution to what Domig wants to transpose in his works. "There is a psychological level to my paintings. It's not just about clean surfaces, but also about the beauty of complexity. That's also what makes good therapy: making fractures visible." In his view, the aspect of exposing breaking points, which at best can lead to healing, can also be found in art, namely as a tension between destruction and beauty.

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"Beauty in art has the task of pointing out things that we don't notice!"

Excursus Beauty
Especially as he mentions the word beauty, he cannot avoid the provocative question of whether art has to represent only the beautiful? "In art itself, we have moved away from depicting only classical forms of anatomical beauty. Just think of Michelangelo's sculpture of David - completely overdrawn! We live in a time when contemporary ideals of beauty are being questioned," he remarks. The fact that Kate Winslet is now making headlines not only with her acting skills but also with her tough contracts prohibiting the retouching of her pictures has not escaped the painter's attention either. "Beauty in art has the task of pointing out things we try to avoid," Domig adds. 

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His Faibles
But back to Daniel Domig's creative process. "What fascinates me about painting is the possibility of starting from the moment of ignorance or absence. So it can happen that during a telephone conversation a rudimentary sketch on a post-it can mark the birth of another painting. He does not stick to concepts, but he already has the colour combinations in mind. The figurative elements, especially incomplete figures, which are in a process stage, reveal the proximity to Francis Bacon. Nevertheless, his basic sources of inspiration are not to be found among the masters of painting. "I find the greatest influence on my work in literature. Samuel Beckett has a very plastic approach to language that appeals to me," Domig says. 

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Lege artis
In the meantime, Daniel Domig can look back on almost two decades of intensive involvement with the medium of painting. His paintings are presented internationally and are in private collections worldwide. His most recent cycle of paintings with the appellative title "Teach us to sit still", an excerpt in which he uses a lyrical work by T. S. Eliot, adorns the walls of a gallery in Sydney at the time of our meeting. The large-scale works expose the resonance between being forced to sit still by global lockdowns and people. "The idea of sitting still suggests doing nothing, which has little appeal in today's meritocracy," the artist indicates.

"But doing nothing is not so easy. Those who can do it continue to grow in other areas." Daniel Domig has seized this opportunity. He has learned to complete paintings even in moments where there were still many uncertainties and questions. Viewers would appreciate this new quality in his work process. There is something not thought through to the end, deliberately left open, not perfect. "If we find that okay, then that is also to be accepted as a kind of further beauty that life shows us," Domig thinks. A beautiful thought. 

Photos: Daniel Domig, Brett East

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