In Conversation With Daniel Brice

October 25, 2016

Every week, we'll be sitting down with one of our gallery artists to discuss their work, process, inspiration, and stories. This week we're speaking with Daniel Brice. 


abstract painting

"Untitled NY 2"


Daniel Brice's dreamlike paintings take a shifting expanse of color and ground it with an idiosyncratic geometric form. His color fields appear to float in nothingness, their organic nature created by soft gestural lines, loosely built layers, and a tension between sparing use of color and richly developed hues. But the elegance of the watercolor hits against the starkness of the charcoal forms and the abrasive evidence of Brice's layering techniques, keeping the eye guessing as it wanders around the plane. This convergence appears active, line and color reacting to one another as they intersect and strive to find balance. Brice spoke with us from his studio in California about how he granted himself the freedom to find his voice, the puzzle of color, and the advantages of working on paper. 


What are your earliest memories of art?


I don't recall relating to art or art history at an early point in my life. That would have been a foreign and unattainable thought growing up. What I do remember, related to my knowledge of art, is the feeling of engaging in the making of a thing; the thinking, the working through of stuff.  When I was very young I would be out back digging holes in the earth under this huge majestic oak tree, on my hands and knees crafting these pure little holes, digging in the dirt and working through things in my head. I realize now that I still make my art outside, essentially under a different but equally glorious oak tree in my semi-outdoor workspace in California. That trips me out. I hadn't made the connection.


When and how did you start becoming and artist yourself?


Being an artist was never something I could fathom when I was younger. I messed around with drawing but not relating to it as a pursuit. I didn't take art classes in junior high or high school. It wasn't until my second year in college, stumbling toward being an architect, that I was introduced to the thought of art as a formal pursuit. I had to take a landscape drawing type of class related to architectural renderings and I very quickly realized, or accepted, that A) I had no interest in architecture, and B) I dug landscape drawing. It got me wondering and I decided to take a life drawing class. With that I realized, "Oh this is that wonderful feeling I used to get digging in the dirt." That was the beginning of becoming an artist for me. I find myself still in the act of becoming.


 abstract painting

"Untitled NY 14" 


What was the evolution like for finding your current voice?


 It's been gradual, like a long hike or learning to love. As I age I feel I'm allowing my voice to distill and have the strength to embrace a longstanding visual minimalism in my work. I figured out a while back that the act of making art was simply one aspect of my total expression. Initially, I had thought that my paintings and drawings had to hold and express my everything in all its forms. What a burden to carry and a pain in the ass to get out. I've slowly realized that I have my family and my friends to provide a certain way of expressing, the making of music and lyric content or poetry to take on another aspect of expression (and also provide an outlet for figurative work), and ultimately hiking or being in the ocean or other activities to take on another mode of expression. Knowing this has freed me up in my work. I can explore simple visual elemental abstract feelings and not think I'm letting myself down. 


What are your inspirations and influences?


Western and Southwest landscapes and the ocean as both a landscape and source for recreation have been profound influences. Those, and music, melody, and abstraction of music are my greatest influences. As for painters who've inspired me, I turn to Van Gogh, Phillip Guston, Carlos Almaraz, and Albert Pinkham Ryder.


What is your process like?


My process is fairly straightforward. The greatest variable is the medium and what I'm working on, whether it be paper or stretched canvas, linen, or burlap. Paper is intimate and freeing with the ability to work fast. It's nice being able to resolve things quickly. For the last year or so, I've been working with watercolor and charcoal on paper. I didn't think I'd work with watercolor but I got into the fluidity of it. I now find myself moving back towards chunky oil based minimal fields.


What are the most important elements for you in your work?


Hopefully there's space in the work that slows me down and helps me meditate for a bit. I work toward a spatial atmosphere, suggestions of formality, and a simmering quietude.


 abstract painting

"Untitled NY 1"


What's your relationship with color? How do you work with it, what draws you to exploring it's possibilities?


Color is my primary drive. It's what gets me going. The use of color emotionally and with smarts has always been something I strive for. Van Gogh, Munch, Almaraz, and the German Expressionists were all killer colorists that used color with intelligence. At times it's hard for me to separate color from emotion. The choosing and creating of color and the supporting harmony or dissonance is very musical to me. It's very similar to locking into a song and clothing it with sounds that create something listenable or viewable, a believable environment. The thing I find so cool in the puzzle-like challenge of coloring is committing to some funky color and then, via color theory and/or intuition, creating the compliments. Sometimes I'm suspect of color and feel like I'm getting conned by it all, but the feeling passes. Ultimately I'm attracted to the poetry of the vibe, how it feels.


Where do you see your work going from here?


Well I feel as if I've been fishing from the same pond all along. I like venturing to the pond and the pond still holds my interest. Sitting here I have a certain understanding of what I'll be doing today and a feeling for next week. It gets a little foggier when I think of next month or next year. That being said, I can't imagine myself not neck deep in this pond many years from now.


 abstract painting

 "Untitled NY 18"


Explore more of Daniel Brice's work here

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