The Blue Visionary | Interview with Daniel van der Noon, Artist

A couple of months ago I put a call out on Instagram for some crazy colourful male artists. I’ve always wanted this space to be equal and diverse, and I felt that I just hadn’t really happened upon that many upcoming male artists that weren’t already well known. I don’t know if the issue there is that more male artists are making it in the world of art, or if males are less vocal on social media with self-promotion. What do you reckon?

Anyway, one of the male artists put forward was Daniel van der Noon (thank you Hannah in the House), and I immediately fell in love with his fresh thinking and collaborative approach. Born in Birmingham, Daniel is a British native but has spent his adult years travelling around the world, seeking inspiration and working with other artists to create an alternative result to something he might make on his own.

Now working professionally between Copenhagen and Aarhus, Daniel’s work inherently focuses on the actual process of drawing, a rare find in this new world of digital and digital application. Encompassing the motto of ‘the more you draw, the more you see’, his work looks at cityscapes, unusual narratives and his immediate surrounding environment. The result you ask? Well, see and read it for yourself.

Daniel van der Noon Artist Residency at STUDIO ROJO, CCA Andraxt, Mallorca

Daniel van der Noon Artist Residency at STUDIO ROJO, CCA Andraxt, Mallorca

Firstly can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into the art world?

I’m originally from Birmingham, perhaps the origin of my fascination with blue. Besides from drawing a lot as a kid – designing cars and football kits as a kid and then posting off packages to all the car companies and football clubs – things really got going when I got into an art foundation course in Birmingham; working closely with my cousin James Bourne with the nationwide art collective he set up, Them Lot. It was like being in a band, hanging out at James’ apartment on weekends painting, drawing and listening to Blur.

I was learning tons from recently graduated artists, illustrators and photographers when I was only about 16-17. Fast-forward to the University of Leeds years where I studied English Literature and Philosophy before spending time in Copenhagen during an Erasmus year. It was then that I began drawing obsessively.

You’re based in Copenhagen. How do you find the creative scene?

As with all cities, it’s fragmented; shared among all of these different levels of creatively minded people with differently set intentions. In between the national state-funded galleries and the art academy scene, there’s all sorts of independent artists, designers and photographers making their own paths. There is a high concentration of this and that going on, and things typically move pretty fast since it’s a relatively small city. There’s a lot of cooperation going on between people across the board.

MADS NØRGAARD x Daniel van der Noon

MADS NØRGAARD x Daniel van der Noon

And have you ever lived anywhere else? Which places have you found most inspiring on your travels?

Since leaving England back in 2011, I have been based in Denmark between Aarhus and Copenhagen. During this time I’ve travelled a lot working, or otherwise simply drawing everywhere from Shanghai to Miami, New York to Mumbai. New York is clearly the obvious one, and I must admit to thinking about it almost daily; there are simply so many people from so many different countries and backgrounds that it is impossible for you not to experience some beautiful paradox daily that will ignite your imagination when you reminisce.

I was also working in Mumbai a couple of years back together with a team of journalists on a story in the so-called ‘slum’ area called Dharavi. It was overrun with children, one corner we turned there had around 100 kids playing cricket and upon seeing us, they immediately called us to the stage to use the microphone and commentate. Without droning on it’s impossible to at least give Tokyo, and especially Osaka a mention too – the aesthetics and calm are indelibly marked in my memory.

MADS NØRGAARD x Daniel van der Noon

MADS NØRGAARD x Daniel van der Noon

What’s the starting point for your projects? How do you come up with concepts?

The more you draw, the more you see. I think that the trigger points that stimulate projects, drawings, and visual outpours derive from multiple sources of ‘inspiration’. Body and mind are clearly connected, as well as the environment you’re in. I often find that the nucleus of the next idea is typically based on juggling these elements around while drawing as frequently as possible during the process.

I think it was in 2015 I did this ritual that I referred to as ‘The Inventory’ where I laid out a whole bunch of drawings that I’d made from the past 2 years so to induce new lines that I sprawled on to a huge piece of blue paper, I’m certainly going to recreate this method again this year. I’ll also just be dropping myself into a new city every now and then. Naturally, this creates both an extension of my persona and, as a result, new lines. Once I begin to get a grip of something visually then I’m able to structure it a little with the use of writing to add some meat to the bones.

Colour is a massive part of your work. Is any of this informed or are you quite organic with your choices?

I think colour and how it constantly engulfs us has a massively underplayed impact on just about everything it means to be human. I’m of course visually stimulated when I’m somewhere new and confronted with not only new colours I haven’t experienced before but colour combinations also. Whether consciously or subconsciously these colours then feed into my work one way or another. I also make a habit of picking up different colour samples and test pots from hardware shops etc when I’m abroad.

It’s about doing something to retain, record or upload some of these colours and their combinations since it is not as simple of going to an art shop and mixing paints together based on a photograph. I have some pretty inventive methods for doing this. For a drawing I made of Mumbai I can remember rubbing various collections of dust into the paper, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to replicate that exact hue in any other way, only imply it. Victoria Finlay’s book about colour is a beautifully written compendium as to the origin of colours; the most interesting story of all is the history of ultramarine and the lapsis lazuli rock.  

Daniel van der Noon Artist Residency at STUDIO ROJO, CCA Andraxt, Mallorca

Daniel van der Noon Artist Residency at STUDIO ROJO, CCA Andraxt, Mallorca

You take part in quite a lot of collaborations with photographers and other artists. How important do you think it is for artists to combine and create?

I think it’s important to step outside of your own ‘medium’ and switch up your way of seeing: take on a different pair of sunglasses to both see and appear different, as well as destabilizing the self. This can be done in two ways; mix it up by creating collaborations with people outside of your ‘field’; i.e. fashion designers, photographers, writers etc.; or initiate this practice within yourself by picking up alien materials and purposely pulling yourself outside of your so-called ‘comfort-zone’.

Attempting a new process, or approaching content outside of what you may even think relates to you. I recently came across the Anglo-Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. I haven’t read all that much of his yet, but one thing that I found interesting are his ‘multiplas personalidades’. Thousands of pieces of his writing are written in different personas with different backgrounds in indistinguishably different styles. This mirrors how I believe we should work within ourselves; constantly seeking new lines, neurological pathways and channels of expression that are reflective of the current data you have inside of myself.    

THE INVENTORY / EMIL MONTY FREDDIE STUDIO | Daniel van der Noon

The Inventory / Emil Monty Freddie Studio | Daniel van der Noon

And who would you dream collaboration be with?

I saw this show by an Afro-American painter, Devin Troy in New York some time back in New York called Space Jam. There were definitely some new colours in there; I follow him on Instagram still and perhaps I’ll try my luck reaching out to him one of the days.

That’s a wrap. Tell me one thing you wanna do in 2018.

It’s certainly tattoo-time and I have my eye on my left thigh!

Catch Daniel’s work via his website and follow him on Instagram here.

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