Studio Visit: Danny Rolph

Danny Rolph is an all round artist superstar and one of the nicest people I know. He’s also a font of knowledge when it comes to art, and most importantly, he is amongst my favourite artists in the world. Thats not a term I use lightly. I know lots of artists – my husband’s family business is based in the art world – and choosing a favourite artist is like asking you to choose your favourite song.

A reason Danny is one of my favourites is not just his amazing art, its also that he is the first artist whose studio I visited, some ten years ago. We spent a good few hours sitting in his studio, drinking builders tea and talking about stuff. Fashion, travel, architecture, philosophy, culture, other artists, space, kids, life… we connected. Art can be intimidating and often elitist, as can artists (I recall once timidly asking a conceptual artist to explain her work to me… she nearly chewed me up and spat me out…), so Danny’s down to earth’ness and loveable character are part of what makes him special.

And then there’s his art… paintings, drawings, collages, prints, full of references and reflections of Danny’s life and immense knowledge of art history.

Show at CNB Gallery, Shoreditch, London

I love how the work is layered and composed, to reveal itself over time; its impossible to read it quickly – one of the paintings we have at home is still unfolding itself to us after ten years.

Danny absorbs things from life and in his travels, which are often ‘repositioned’ through his work. Colours, motifs, patterns, shapes – whilst its impossible to decipher every aspect of the work, there are strangely familiar aspects that drive certain emotions. Fashion is often in the mix; I remember seeing works from a few years back that featured strong Pucci colours, drawn on the time Danny spent in Milan. His most recent works on paper (shown below) reference elements of a Missoni palette and patterns.

Certainly much of Danny’s work is from a happy place; he is a positive person with a strong energy about him. He uses colour emotively, ‘feeling’ it rather than dictating it. Each work has a particular mood and character.

There are some fantastic interviews with Danny, exploring his fascination with the sky, London and its archicture – I’ve listed them at the end of this post for more indepth reading.

Danny is generous with his time and knowledge and he loves to teach (he is a part time professor of art at Bucks University). Collectors of Danny’s work often become friends too – at his recent private view of work at the CNB Gallery in Hoxton (beneath the Tramshed Restaurant), so many friends and students turned up there was a queue to get in.

It’s always fascinating to visit the environment that an artist creates in. The artwork takes on a more informal quality than when experienced in a white walled gallery. To truly reflect on art, the gallery environment is needed, a quiet space devoid of colour and noise so that the viewer can focus completely on the art in front of them. But it always seems like a special treat to get that behind the scenes glimpse at where the work is created.

Danny’s studio is in an old warehouse in Bermondsey.

Danny’s Studio

I love seeing the items and objects that artists surround themself with in order to create (Danny is very pleased with this patterned blanket which was picked up on ebay for a tenner!). He is just as knowledgeable about music as he is art (he DJ’d for a while) and has an impressive collection of vinyl; his recent exhibition at Barbara Davis Gallery in Houston, Texas is named after a line in a John Denver song – ‘Painted on the Sky’.

I asked him about the process of creating a work – in his studio there are boxes and boxes of pages from magazines, cards he has found on the street, things he has collected. He explained that a work will develop organically. He won’t set out to use a particular image, its more about instinct and feeling as the work evolves. Often he’ll feel that the work needs an element collaged in and he’ll rifle through until he finds what feels right.

Small paintings on canvas in Danny’s studio
Painting in the studio

Danny’s current show is on at CNB Gallery  in London’s Shoreditch until 6 November. Entitled ‘East Central’ it features 5 large abstract works on twinwall (a plastic material often used in construction) and draws on memories of growing up in a high rise tower block in East Central London. There are multiple layers and references to music, modernist architecture, sunrises and popular culture at the time. He talks a lot about time, the collision of the past and the future. I always see a lot of movement in Danny’s works – his use of line and brushstroke creates a momentum and energy that takes your eye through the work, stopping off along the way to take in moments in time.

Details from one of the twinwall paintings in East Central, CNB Gallery

I’m lucky to have a few of Danny’s works and he recently gifted a work on paper to my daughter Coco. Its caused an argument as she wants it to go in her bedroom but I’ve insisted it goes in the kitchen for us to all enjoy! I talked in my last post about how children are drawn to Danny’s work, I think its down to the energy and colour that he uses. I hope this has given you a taste of Danny’s work. There is so much more to it than I’ve articulated here, so I’ve listed links below where you can find out more.

Gallery info:
East Central at CNB Gallery Shoreditch continues until 6 November 2016
Painted on the Sky, Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston, Texas – closed October 2016

Further info:
Interviews in ArtAttack and Citizen Mag about the current show at CNB Gallery, London. Theres a great video here (about an hour long) of a talk Danny did back with Michael Stubbs back in 2012 at Poppy Sebire Gallery (you’ll spot me in the second row on the far left of the screen 18 seconds in!).

If you’re interested in any of Danny’s work on paper or small canvases then drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch. For further reading check out Danny’s website 

Theres a brilliant video by Lily Vetch of Danny in his last studio, talking about his work and also a lovely section at the end where he discusses the importance of the viewer to him:

I’ll be visiting more artist studios over the coming weeks. If you’d like to see more, just add your email to the Follow Me box and you’ll get sent them hot off the press!

Further reading – if you are thinking about buying art but not sure where to start, I’ve written a blog post on why we should have art in our lives here and one on figuring out what art is for you here.

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