– Autumn/Winter 2004
With Respect to Disrespect
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René Daniëls, Gent, oil on canvas, 180cm x 240cm,1980-1981. Courtesy Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam
A friend described a recent European painting survey show to me in shorthand thus: 'It had a lot of René Daniëls-type painting.' That remark didn't ring true because, for myself, René Daniëls absolutely cannot supply the basis of, or the model for a type of painting at all. For Daniëls is a painter without a style and without a method, and for that example alone we should be thankful. At this moment, to be without a signature method is to be an invisible agent, one whose agency appears - if at all - only hesitantly and intermittently. In this sense, Daniëls has often seemed a clandestine artist.
Twenty years ago Daniëls seemed anything but. It was never surprising that in the early 1980s Daniëls became assimilated into the New Image vogue. Of course, it is somewhat unfair to lump in his pseudo-allegorical pictures of the period with the rest of the New Image/Neue Wilde/Transavantgardia package, if only because of their humour. Yet even though paintings such as De Revue Passeren (1982), Hotel (1980), Alzumeazume (1984), or Ondergronds Verbonden (1984) are all pictures that through their cursory, impatient brushwork and graphic-expressive hauteur satisfy the expectations of New Image painting, Daniëls's position within that fold is exemplified by the 1982 exhibition 'Zeitgeist', in which he showed alongside Kiefer, Chia, Clemente, Cucchi, etc. It is not only the context that holds his painting of this period hostage to the misfortune of the Zeitgeist conceit - a propos of which, as Hegel remarked regarding the shortcomings of allegory, 'an allegorical being has no qualities, but is itself one quality and no more'.1 Only the relation to the rest of Daniëls's oeuvre