HOLD THE LINE
words by FLORIS MÜLLER
With some works of art, it’s not about what you see — the end result of the artist’s thoughts and efforts — but more about how it came to be. The left-handed American painter, DANIEL DUGAN, fills his canvas, and selected shapes, with one solid line. According to his self-imposed rules, this line may never cross, must be equally thick everywhere, and always be applied at the same distance. His patterns look like organic textures, like a meticulously elaborated representation of a coral or human brain tissue.
DUGAN says he paints ‘because he has to’, to express his feelings, to process joy, anger, sadness, and frustration. ‘Drawing the line and all the thousands of curves is meditative because of the endless repetition,’ he says. Sometimes the production of his meter-sized canvases is much more than a creative process: its a physical showdown, not to say an almost obsessive battle of attrition, a test of the artist’s perseverance. Once started with a painting, DUGAN spends days and sometimes weeks working, not knowing where it will end. ‘Once I’ve drawn a first line, I’m obliged to finish it, no matter how difficult it sometimes turns out to be to continue in the limited space.’
His line depicts life, says DUGAN, ‘as a continuous movement over which, despite plans and wishes, you actually have very limited influence.’ His work as a whole matches the complexity of our existence: though we take careful steps according to a fixed patten like the painting, looking back it feels very much like chaos. Like something that is almost impossible to grasp.
Brought up in the southern state of Alabama, DUGAN has always been fascinated by human anatomy — first at full scale, but later on a more microscopic level. Undistracted by his constant need to draw — to sketch lines — he topped his class in high school and later earned his pre-Med degree with honors cum laude and was destined to make it as a doctor or researcher. Against all odds, however, the promising student chose for a future in which he would be able to use his creativity to full capacity. He started working as an actor in New York, in theatre, television and film productions. Later, from 2010, he chose to proceed as a full-time artist working in Los Angeles. Although his pattern and ground rules have remained much the same since his early years as an artist, DUGAN has always experimented with material. Apart from ink on paper, he works with acrylic, oil, wire, wood, moss, and LED. DUGAN once made a massive piece of temporary art, with lines in the sand on the beach and was asked to provide walls, floors and even carpets with his signature pattern. His work has previously been shown at Art Basel in Miami and at art fairs in Havana, Palm Springs and Mexico City.
DUGAN’s work is not showcased as part of the collection of one gallery. He doesn’t have a representative, and isn’t looking for one either. ‘More than slick sales pitches by experts, in which my work is explained, I care for what it does with people who admire it,’ he says. He doesn’t refer to himself as an artist or painter, but prefers the term producer, as a creator of patterns which he hopes offer a certain experience. His clientele includes not only modern art lovers, but also design enthusiasts. In addition to word-of-mouth advertising, he finds them online and through the media. As a darling of the press, the cheerful artist’s work has been cited in dozens of newspapers, Architectural Digest China, Red Carpet Club Mexico and Traditional Home.