Daniel Mullen

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1985 and currently I work out of a studio in Amsterdam.
How long have you lived in Amsterdam?
I moved here around 2005 to study art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. It’s a conceptual art school, so the focus was not on technique but rather the conceptualization of interests ideas and questions. Before that, I was living in upstate New York volunteering with people with special needs.
Are you self-taught when it comes to painting?
The method of painting I use, I developed specifically for what I want to achieve, but as you go through art school you pick up tricks along the way. One’s peers play an important role in that.
Your works relate to architectural spaces and the built environment, both real and imagined. How do you translate your experiences into compositions?
I see myself of the architect of a universe. I see the raw canvas as the activator of my imagination and I use paint to capture it, so that I might share it.
How do you choose your materials?
I guess the materials have been a natural progression informed by the issues I come up against. Often it is purely practical.
You often gravitate toward raw canvas or linen - how does this material choice reflect the issues you’re facing in these works?
The raw canvas has played a role in my work from the point when I started fully to abstract physical space, I saw and see the raw canvas as a way to activate my imagination.

The starting point of the “White Series” was to go back, essentially to the beginning, and look again at the word that stimulated this whole journey: Emptiness.

The starting point for my work was a fascination with the concept of the word “emptiness”. From the perspective of Eastern philosophy, it is seen as a spiritual ascension, something positively attainable. This is contrary to Sartre’s school of thought, where Nothingness is put forward as an acceptable state of being.

When I was working on gessoed canvas, I always felt the need to completely fill up the whole canvas to get rid of the white. This, in retrospect, I call Sartre’s Nothingness. When I started using the raw or unprepared canvas it was symbolic of that gesture of emptiness, and yet at the same time it was already something: a positive experience of emptiness. Suddenly I felt there was a dialogue, there was a relationship with my material, it activated my imagination.

For the white Series I wanted to go back and look again at the relationship between East and West, between Emptiness and Nothingness, to see if they could relate to each other.

Suddenly I felt there was a dialogue, there was a relationship with my material, it activated my imagination. — Daniel Mullen
Have you always been a painter?
I have always lived somewhat in my imagination, so using the canvas a physical conduit to explore and share my universe seems to me to be the best and most direct channel.
Do you admire or draw inspiration from any other artists?
I admire the work of Julie Mehretu, along with Mondrian.
How do you see Mondrian influencing your work, past or current?
I would say Piet Mondrian’s “Pier and Ocean” has had the most profound impact on me. This was the first work I had seen where the abstraction was so tangible: thinking about topography as a way to read the lines whilst thinking about the rhythm of waves and possibly the reflection of the sky. When I started to piece these things together I got a three-dimensional image in my head. This really guided me through the process of abstracting physical architecture.

In my latest series “Spatial Feedback” I returned to this work for another reason - it helped me build a visual language once combined with my childhood fascination staring at TVs with no signal, seeing undulating forms and volumes in the white noise. Later I learned that the white noise was feedback from the universe, which inspired me to look again at surface as purely flat material, versus the illusion of space.

What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I think when space has become an anchor point for a memory. Specifically, if you revisit a physical space where a memory took place then, in my experience, it is never how the memory was.
If you revisit a physical space where a memory took place then, in my experience, it is never how the memory was. — Daniel Mullen

In a few of my works I have been trying to capture a color that consists of Teal/Blue/Turquoise/Lime Green - it is the color of the old transport system in Glasgow where I grew up. A few years ago I went back to visit the new transport museum by Zaha Hadid. The interior color is the same color which was used in the interior of the busses. But to my memory, it is wrong. In the memory there exists mystery and it is that mystery that brings me back to that color. I’m trying to capture something that is, in fact, intangible. The color has been influenced by romantic memories or feelings. I think that is also the powerhouse behind my work trying to explore space and feelings evoked by space line and color that will inevitably never be tangible.

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