How they see | Interview by Piotr Jastrzębski

If someone had organized a competition for a story related to starting an adventure with art, Danny Giesbers would have won one of the main prizes. His story stands out for sure.

But putting jokes aside. Danny caught my eye with the way he uses colour and how he is layering it on canvas. It is so deeply connected with abstract expressionism yet in many ways original. Especially when the colour shifts into negative in the dark. It made me think about his paintings differently, the negatives also evoked its unique feelings. I have found it powerful in some way.


During your studies, you had a chance to spend some time in Cracow. I can’t help myself to ask about it, cause I spent a major part of my life in this city. What brought you to this particular place in Poland and how did you like it?

I understand you want to know. I love Cracow, had an amazing and interesting time and still have friends there who I sometimes visit. As I am curious by nature I wanted to experience something different from Western Europe. So within my university, I checked the options for Eastern Europe and bumped into Cracow. I heard of its reputation as a party city and also with a relatively large population of students. And believe me, fun it was! But besides that, it was also very interesting and adventurous. A Slavic language, sensing the remains of communism, English not being very developed yet (2009) among people as a second language, and what I liked the most was a much less individualistic society. The connection among people was amazing. Such a cold climate in winter, but one of the warmest semesters I experienced.


“Serenity in minimal artworks is my favourite emotion. Actually one of my favourites in life!” There is a wide spectrum of emotions out there, why serenity is so important to you?

There is probably a rational reason for it, but I haven’t analyzed it thoroughly. During my life, I have experienced many emotions, and I appreciate serenity a lot. Maybe because my head is always busy, running, and I enjoy the break.

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Danny Giesbers, 'Jackson Pollock'

During the teenage years, you had a brief moment of flirt with art, but then you stopped and you got back to it fully in your 30’s. What made you interested in art again?

Haha. My ex-girlfriend told me she always wanted to paint but never had the time nor money as a student. So for Valentine’s day, I got her the whole deal. Paints, easel, brushes, you name it. Later that year on an autumn Sunday she was painting, it rained and I was bored. So I asked ‘How much longer? Let’s go and do something.’ And she replied ‘I am busy, go and paint as well’. And that is how it started :)


I think I can somehow relate to your story: I was doing a lot of art when I was a child, stopped and I got back to it in my 30s. Recently I started to think, something magical happens when you reach 30.

True, you see it all around I think. Apparently, we stop shaping ourselves to a large extent around 35. I believe people settle down by that time and choose their purpose. I always felt there was something more for me, tried different things, but then by accident found painting again. It just feels right.


What was for you the most challenging part of starting to do art again? How do you overcome it?

I don’t believe there was one specific challenging thing. There were mostly small challenges. What technique and style is for me, what materials match that, and practical things like space to paint. The first one I overcame by checking out a lot of art, discovering what I loved most and next trying the techniques behind it. I fell in love with abstract expressionism, at first Pollock, De Kooning and Rothko, and next discovered Richter.

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Danny Giesbers in his studio

You name Gerhard Richter as your favourite painter. Why his art made such a big influence on you?

First of all, I was mostly in love with his squeegee works. Besides that I love the technique as a large part is up to coincidence. Every application is exciting as you do not know how it will turn out fully. Yes, you should know your materials and how they interact, how colours interact, you can choose amounts of paint, but yet there are always surprises.


It is very unusual I guess, but you have also named Nike Sneakers influence. What is so special about them?

Any artist is influenced by his environment. Nike sneakers have been in my life since being a teenager and I have always loved them for their use of colour. In my opinion, there is no other sneaker brand with such history and front-running in the use of colour and design. I just love what they do and keep being surprised every time again. Very inspiring.


However, going through your Instagram profile, it seems that there are a lot of people, music or things that get you inspired. What is the inspiration for you?

Ow my, that one is hard to answer. It is so diverse. With the one topic, it is just plainly the colours. Think of Northern light sceneries. When a person influenced me it is often their life story, mastery, the versatility in their mastery, or their impact on society or humankind. Oftentimes it is also sources of joy and deeper happiness. At the moment for instance I am creating the work ‘Ludovico Einaudi’. To me, he is the best composer of the 21st century thus far. I think it is remarkable how he is capable to move me so much with often just 3 instruments, where old composers used dozens of them. Although my technical knowledge of music is low, I think he is innovative. Besides, I just can’t stop listening to his album Seven Days Walking. I play it half of the time during painting.

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Danny Giesbers, colour shift 'Jackson Pollock'

Your process combines 2D & 3D elements, translucency, playing with light. It is intuitive yet in my opinion it is very complex at the same time. What is the most challenging part of it?

The most challenging is maintaining a high level of focus. The application of colour relatively does not take much time, but I only get one chance for a layer and it must hit the first time. There is almost no margin for error. So getting myself into this sort of meditative state is probably the most challenging.


What has changed for you, when you have started to work on larger formats?

Many things. Tools, the weight of the work, logistics of materials, but also the processing time gets relatively shorter. Epoxy resin gives me about 45 minutes of processing time. When increasing the surface it becomes more challenging to apply a layer perfectly. This obviously requires full focus as well.


In my opinion, it is very difficult to stand out in the art world and interest the viewers. What are your experiences?

I agree. First of all finding something that is truly you, your own style and process, and standing out from other art is hard. But also getting it out there is hard and being acknowledged for doing something that stands out. It is not a must though to stand out, but I am the person who does want to create something unique and contribute to art. For myself, it took me quite a while to discover my technique, process and style. It took me a lot of experimenting. Not only to see if you like something aesthetically, but also whether the process contributes to art and first and foremost whether you love doing it. All that coming together is very special in my experience. My search to find the Shifts series took me about 3 years, of which the last 6 months were solely experimenting.

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Danny Giesbers, 'Neon 1' and 'Neon 2'

Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?

This question is very generic. Let’s assume I give advice to the self-taught artist or designer who really wants to stand out and do his or her own thing. It begins with sensing who you are, knowing what style you like aesthetically, but also what process and materials you enjoy. In my opinion, it is also important to know your place in art history, but also among your contemporary peers. What has been done before? What is being done now? How do I contribute to art history as an evolution or revolution, and at the same time stand out from my contemporary peers? This is easier said than done, for which I would advise to just go out and explore in all areas, not putting too much pressure on yourself yet. Although for some pressure helps the creative process, it shuts down the other. Sort of develop your roadmap with the elements mentioned above but don’t put a timeline to it. Discovering yourself as an artist is a magical experience. I know most of you discover it sooner rather than later, but learn to love and enjoy the road there! The road actually never ends, so also enjoy the rediscovering phase afterwards.


I will again quote you: “Some colours are closer to your heart than others” What is your favourite?

Haha, well first of all I love them all. But if I have to choose I would pick violet and pink.