Svend Danielsen is an artist of the periphery, in the very best sense. With his undogmatic and idiosyncratic approach to art and his surroundings, nothing is too large and definitely not too small to make its way into his works: a single line on a piece of paper, a worn-out piece of cardboard, a kitsch coat rack, a scene of nature, a soaring arch.
The work of Svend Danielsen unites the long, heavy traditions of painting with a Fluxus-like spontaneity and interest in the mundane. Within this range, he has spent decades investigating and challenging the conventions of genre and expectations of what art is, persistently pushing the artwork and artistic method to the borders of both.
With the solo exhibition Under linjen (‘Under the line’) Svend Danielsen presents a wide selection of new works located in the field between image and object, representing a broad survey of his oeuvre. With painting as his starting point, Danielsen has added numerous media to his practice, although painting still forms a clear connecting thread, and also occupies a central role in this exhibition. Via expressive brushstrokes the artist converts concrete impressions into evocative abstractions – an assured yet persistently curious and inquiring study of materiality, rhythm, colour and line. Whilst some of the works are minimalist and ethereal, others are dark and dense. Despite the different expressive forms, a consistent focus on opening the surface of the painting can be sensed, creating depth and spatiality through a precise gauging of tones and hues, of gravity and lightness. Beneath the understatement and apparent nonchalance lies a rich mesh of references to different painting styles and epochs, to which Danielsen adds his distinctive stamp, using, for example, a base of rococo ochre tones as the background for the blue contours of the pockets of a pair of jeans.
The paintings in the exhibition are in dialogue with a wide range of works on paper, sculptural compositions, and short videos in which Danielsen’s focus on formal experiments and effects is combined with more humorous and sketch-like elements. As well as being small works in their own right, they launch a specific way of seeing and experiencing, drawing attention to the curious yet aesthetic qualities and potential of the commonplace that Svend Danielsen is eminent at registering. Filtered through his open-minded gaze, a torn teabag box is effortlessly transformed into a sculpture, just as the handle of a paper carrier bag suddenly appears as a taut, spatial curve. New meanings, developments and sensory perceptions proliferate throughout and between the works, which invigorate and energise each other – and as the exhibition title suggests, it can all be seen from the bottom up.
The different formats and styles of the selected works create jumps and connections between the banal and the grandiose, the figurative and abstract, the droll and serious, all of which seem to co-exist with ease in Svend Danielsen’s artistic universe. Only a trained eye can make this difficult discipline look so playfully easy. Like the surface tension on a glass of water, one drop too much makes it overflow, and one drop too little defuses the intensity.
Svend Danielsen (b.1955) studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in the period 1974-78. He has since exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Denmark and abroad and is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Denmark and Hygum Art Museum. Since 2013 he has been one of the artists behind the artist-run exhibition space Svends Bibliotek (Svend’s Library) in Copenhagen, and has also published a wide range of artist books.