René Daniëls, a film by Erik van Lieshout debuts at De Pont Museum, Tilburg, Netherlands

Until May 1, 2022

Erik van Lieshout (Deurne, 1968) generally produces provocative videos and drawings in which he investigates art, socio-political topics and himself in a forthright manner. René Daniëls (Eindhoven, 1950) is one of the most important Dutch painters of the late twentieth century. In 1987 his career was abruptly interrupted by a stroke, from which he has never entirely recovered. Not until twenty years after this did Daniëls begin to paint again. When he was granted the Culture Prize from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds for North Brabant in 2019, Van Lieshout came up with the idea of portraying Daniëls in a film. He created a probing, upbeat but also subdued portrait of the artist. A film about what it is to be an artist, but also the search for a dialogue with someone with whom no spoken words can be exchanged, and where facial expressions and yes/no answers assume intense meaning.


For this portrait Van Lieshout followed Daniëls for more than a year. He visited him at home, also on his seventieth birthday, and they went on outings to places like Nuenen and paid a visit to De Pont, where work by Daniëls can be seen. The significance of the artist’s early work, which breathed new life into painting after having been declared dead as a medium, comes up along the way. As does his position as an internationally renowned artist. But the emphasis lies with the present and with the devotion to art, in which the puns and visual jokes of Daniëls alternate with Van Lieshout’s direct and often slapstick humor – although the latter remains strikingly muted in this portrait.


During his time at art school Van Lieshout was, in fact, of the opinion that Daniëls’s work was too far removed from the socio-political reality. In an attempt to understand it better, Van Lieshout made copies of Daniëls’s best-known works throughout the film process. Rugged, messy and comprised of colored vinyl, they are of course true Van Lieshouts. But they do allow him to arrive at the essence of painting. 

December 4, 2021
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