AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL M. THURAU AND OFIR DOR
Ofir dor (O.D.)
Could you say something about what got you started painting? Can you pinpoint a period in your life when you realized you’d like to be a painter?
Daniel m. Thurau (D.M.T)
I’ve been always fascinated by images, be it comics, illustrations, whatever photographs, and by color.
You know I was raised in the GDR – a period in my life where color wasn’t at hand as it is nowadays, everything was dull, grayish in those days. Simple stickers from western Germany would be a thing of great value for us kids.
I became an addicted reader though, I liked to dive into alternative worlds then, books or comics, worlds that I could hide in from the grey and sometimes frightening reality.
Then, when I grew older the wall came down and I didn’t know what to do with myself or with my time. I couldn’t get any girls and I wanted to change that, so I thought I should become famous and I started singing in a punk-rock band.
But that didn’t go well and eventually I was kicked out of the band because my singing wasn’t very good. I still didn’t know what to do with myself; I started to study law because I thought it might be a good thing to at least know your enemy: the state. But, law of course wasn’t the right thing either and then I began attending some painting classes in a private school and I started drawing but I still didn’t see myself as an artist or a painter, although I did a lot of commercial illustrative work to earn some money at this point. I painted in clubs and airbrushed motorbikes at this time. Then a friend and I went on a trip through Italy in 1999, we visited Venice and saw an exhibition of Basquiat set aside from the Biennale.
That was a shock and the first time I wanted to be an artist and paint those paintings myself. I felt the sheer power of them and wanted to do something equal.
What does it actually mean for you to be a painter? Could you say what you expect a painting to be? If it’s an instrument, what kind of function is expected of it (ideally)?
When I just said the paintings of Basquiat were a shock, I think of this as something necessary for a painting. Not necessarily in a formal way of being somewhat brutal or edgy, but in a way that it does something to you, that it is getting under your skin, crawls into your mind, touches your heart and leaves you with the deepest wish for seeing it over and over again.
Tolstoi says the real artwork infects you with the same feeling the artist felt by creating it. I like that thought. And as a painter I expect from a painting that it makes me wanting to go back to my own paintings as soon as possible to do better.
Your paintings have an atmosphere, I’d say a certain light, which is not any specific light, not of the sun nor shed by artificial means, more like a dream theater. Could you say something about the Light in your paintings?
Yeah, the light is one of the most important things – which in my opinion applies to painting in general- and it is set as an in-between, neither day nor night.
My paintings exist in a twilight zone, a time and situation of no more and not yet, things ending and/or about to come. Is it the light of the Holy Saturday, the day after Good Friday, the day after the crucifixion but before the resurrection? Maybe.
It is a situation of disillusion, with shattered expectations and unpredictable hopes. If you want to put it in modern words: after we’ve realized unlimited growth has come to its end and we’re at the dawn of an unforeseeable future. But there is hope, the light itself says so. I’m using it as a reminiscence, a background radiation for the Holy, the transcendental, the intangible. All my paintings are equipped with this link.
There’s drama in most of your paintings, there is action, it seems to be slow-motion, paused, meditative, as if the protagonists are waiting for something to happen, sometimes they seem to be listening. Could you say something about your scenes? Where do they come from?
Like I mentioned before I read a lot as a kid, fairytales of course but adventure stories as well, Karl May, Mark Twain, Jack London when I was younger, William Blake, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse as an adolescent. Like every young one I would identify with the heroes of these books (my favorite book from then by the way stems from Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich, an East German writer who would describe the fight for freedom and independency of a small group of Native Americans belonging to one of the Dakota tribes in the late 19th century) but became more and more fascinated by the ambiguous symptoms of most characters be it good or bad. I studied the Bible a bit, all the complex figures like Jakob, Josef, Mose, Saul, David. No bright heroes at all but deeply human.
With the experience of 1989, that one worldview, one conviction could be easily exchanged for another within days, weeks and with a kind of disappointment about what happened afterwards I myself turned to become more of a visitor, an observer that wouldn’t fight the complexity of the world but would embark on a personal journey. So my protagonists are not heroes, they are more likely to be patient sufferers. The exotic in my paintings is part of that journey, part of that urge for another utopia. My palms, moons and sunsets are protective shields against the impertinence of the everyday, the stupidity, the mediocrity, the sheer intellectual.