The Poetry of Untamed Spaces, Exploration, and the Indifference of Land
by Megan Kelley
There’s force, movement, gesture; capturing the feeling and atmosphere—in essence, the honesty of physical expression.
He’s been painting since 7 a.m., and as Daniel Holland takes a moment to speak to me about his recent work for Slow Violence, his exhibit at The Red Arrow Gallery, it becomes apparent that even when he’s not painting, Holland speaks—and understands the world—primarily through his philosophy of paint. Articulate, thoughtful, and deliberate in his poetic phrasing, Holland admits that painting is his first and most native language. Though he occasionally engages other mediums, such as sculpture, “I always come back to paint,” he states. “I use paint to discover new things: to learn, not just speak to what I know.”
The paintings within Slow Violence are some of his most literal, and yet Holland balances his representation of physical space with the trademark attention to materiality that characterizes his painted works. Barren juts of rock are wet with high-gloss paint; the brooding forms of mountains are carved out from the field of sky through a heavy application of turquoise; spray painted canvases are left in the rain to temper Holland’s marks with nature’s own hand; the built forms surrounding a pool of deep blue suggest terrain, and create protruding topography through concrete powder mixed into the paint.
Holland’s works have a sense of structural tension and deliberate composition, and yet there exists a fluidity in Holland’s markmaking that speaks to the movements of the body in painting and the happenstance of drops, spills, and strokes. As conversations on landscape, “I want the painting to sit where it’s comfortable to look at, but it’s still very much alive,” Holland describes, remarking on the push-and-pull dynamic that is the driving action within his painting style. “There’s force, movement, gesture; capturing the feeling and atmosphere—in essence, the honesty of physical expression“is foremost in articulation.” The final effect is works that speak less of specific places and more to the concept of place and wildness as an inherent, immutable part of our interactions with the world around us: a vocabulary of harshness written in labor.
It’s part of an extended conversation that Holland has been holding with himself and his work. “I’m constantly in a reflective process, trying to find my place in history.” In Slow Violence, Holland began thinking of literal places: landscape, specifically in terms of rebellion. “I began to ask myself: with so much ‘discovered’ country, what are the obstacles we push against in contemporary life?” Landscape—and in particular, the indifference of wild spaces in regards to the individual comforts of man—resonated with Holland. Exploring physical spaces and accounts of Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure, Holland found the painting came fast once the obsession had lodged itself within his mind.
Slow Violence also includes an installative video collaboration created with fellow artist Casey Pierce. For the work, Holland cut telephone poles into the eroded supports of a broken pier, surrounding it with shiny dark rocks, and letting Pierce—whose recent video work has been engaging a sense and desire to see the unreal—find elements of time and motion in the simulated environment. For Holland, the video collaboration isn’t separate from the painted works, but rather acts as an expansion and honesty to concept, and the next step of immersiveness to the untamed spaces he has been creating. If the paintings themselves are vocabulary to this language of ground, the video work begins to document the grammar and narrative possibilities that the viewer enters. “These spaces, they are what they are, and they are unconcerned with you even as you exist within them,” Holland explains. “It’s harsh, but it’s beautiful, and it’s somehow essential: if you are there, it is a gift.“
Daniel Holland’s landscape work is on view from January 9 to February 7 at The Red Arrow Gallery, located at 919 Gallatin Avenue, Suite #4. Opening January 9, Slow Violence also marks the grand opening of the new Red Arrow location. For more information visit www.theredarrowgallery.com and www.danielhollandart.com.