Daniel Turner

Daniel Turner Interview - By Steven Cox

As part of HUNTED PROJECTS | In Dialogue New York, it is a pleasure to present this interview with Brooklyn based artist Daniel Turner.

HUNTED PROJECTS traveled to New York in March 2013 to meet a series of exciting and innovative artists based in Brooklyn.  Daniel Turner though is the only exception where the dialogue actually evolved before HUNTED PROJECTS arrival in New York.  Additionally to this, It was fortunate that Daniel Turner had just opened a solo exhibition at the Franklin Parrasch Gallery upon HUNTED PROJECTS arrival in New York.  This alone was exciting, for the possibility to experience Turner's work in situ is incredible due to the temporal nature of Turner's signature works, such as his sfumato-esque steel wool wall rubbings. 

A video of HUNTED PROJECTS visit to Daniel Turner's studio can be viewed here where you can gain a 3-dimensional appreciation of his work Untitled 5150.

Can you tell HUNTED PROJECTS about yourself and creative background?

DT: I grew up in south east Virginia, started drawing at a very early age, and moved to New York a few years ago where I continue to live and work today.

There is a physical use of industrial materials within your work, where manipulative processes involve the burning, oxidization and corrosion of such materials. Perhaps we could discuss your 2006 work titled, Burning an Entire Body of Work so we can explore your early interest with dissolution as a process.

DT: Up until that time my work was primarily limited to a two dimensional field. Even though the works were extremely physical in nature, they still pertained to the world of "painting" in a traditional sense.  The work had to lose its own structure to move forward, so I burnt everything- some 30 to 40 large-scale paintings.

Did you feel any sense of regret during the burning process?

DT: Before I burnt them yes, but not after.

I am aware that images of the burning exist; they appear well considered and compositionally rich. From my perspective, the images don’t seem to be a mere by-product of the event that took place, therefore I am curious as to whether or not the images that were taken have been exhibited or were intended to have been exhibited?

DT: The subject is rich, so naturally it would seem appropriate to exhibit them- yet I never have and at this time have no plans to do so.

In hindsight, would you have documented or performed the burning any differently?

DT: I'm satisfied.

Your installation work titled Mariana, involves the physical rubbing of steel wool upon the confines of a gallery space to subtly produce ephemeral smoky gradations akin to a contemporary sfumato painting. Can you highlight the conceptual origin of this work and discuss the development of this intervention since its first execution?

DT: When I arrived in New York I held a position as a security guard at The New Museum. I began to notice that over time when the guards leaned against the walls, a subtle trace began to emerge from that very lean. I’ve produced similar effects in various contexts over the past few years, yet the performative aspect lost its attraction. It was around this time when I started to question the properties of steel. I had no interest in dealing with steel in terms of its weight or volume; I wanted to break it down, to suspend the material in a virtually weightless gesture. I was lead to steel wool- and started to press the material directly into the wall, leaving a similar trace that had initially sparked my interest.

There is a metaphysical presence within your steel wool rubbings, where your physical action leaves a visible trace for the viewer to engage in without yourself ever being present. I am interested to discover the issues you have encountered when correctly documenting the subtleties within this work, and if the documentation of what is fundamentally temporal, is considered an essential by-product of the work?

DT: Documenting the work is not an issue; I have tens of thousands of JPEGs. Early on I parted ways with any sentimentality towards my works; that alone has freed up my practice tremendously. Although, the image is necessary in terms of archival purposes.

In regards to the site-specificity of your iron oxide floor stains, to what extent does your training as a painter influence your approach to handling the alchemical reactions of this material? And to what extent do you perceive these stains as painterly? Or, from a contrary perspective, do you view this work as a sculptural installation where the variability of this process is entirely arbitrary?

DT: Studying painting informed me compositionally- though it taught me very little about the actual handling of material. Salvaging scrap metal years before studying painting taught me a great deal about material. I do feel hesitant about throwing the words "sculptural installation” around, and I suppose one could relate pouring nearly any material on the floor to painting- yet I see it as neither, possibly as a merger.

I am aware that within the exhibition context that the oxide floor stains are required to remain flawless, for you do not want the viewer to be foolish enough to walk over the stain, adding a footprint or scuff to what is essentially a perfect coverage of rust. I am interested if you can tell me if your views are the same when it comes to the walls within the exhibition space? Would it bother you if your wool rubbings were to be presented amongst wall marks that were not made by yourself?

DT: The piece would take on something completely different If I provoked the viewer to leave there own marks- perhaps I would design the space accordingly.

In the case of the steel rubbings I instruct the gallery to paint out any markings that are not made by my hand, the same way museums/galleries paint out the markings left by guards/traffic.

Additionally, expanding upon my previous question that discusses the gallery environment, could you tell me a bit about the type of environment that most suitably fits your needs and requirements when considering your work within a gallery context? What works for you and what doesn’t?

DT: The first things I tend to consider when approaching an exhibition are the floors, the lighting, and how traffic (if any) navigates the space. This dictates much of my decision making process.

Is there any particular type of space that you haven’t yet installed work within, that you would like to contextualize your work within?

DT: I'm leaning towards the outdoors.

In 2010/11 you exhibited within the group exhibition Press Release, held at the Martos Gallery in New York. The conceptual underpinning of the exhibition surrounded the accident as end aesthetic, where your inclusion involved the exhibiting of a shattered florescent tube-light (Mercury Release) on the floor of a darkened space. I am interested to understand if you interpret yourself as the perpetrator of the breakage, and if so, wouldn’t this conceptually nullify the work?

DT: No, you see I didn't bring the tube into the gallery; it was dropped from its own fixture.

Can you expand on the subtleties within this work?

DT: At the time I was interested in the idea of ingesting a material. When a fluorescent tube is broken a trace amount of mercury is released into the air, which as a result is processed through the body.

I am wondering if you could discuss the origin and development of the feeder/laboratory tables that are currently within your solo exhibition, for they appear to own similarities to the installation within the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Space where you exhibited in 2010, and Britannica I and II (both 2010).

DT: A few years ago I was granted a studio space through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The space served previously as a kitchen to an adjacent office, I suppose sometime in the late 90's. I tried unsuccessfully to work in this space for months until I realized the space itself was more interesting than the work I was producing. So I began to look towards the environment- its own psychology, and this was a turning point.

Can you tell me about what projects and exhibitions you have planned for 2013?

DT: I've recently opened a show of new works at Franklin Parrasch Gallery in New York. The show consist of several units, or bays reminiscent of scaled down agricultural feeders or laboratory tables. In one of the bays a set of refrigerator handles is dissolving in a brackish solution I pulled from the East River, atop another unit a set of handles rest. Severed from any functional utility, the units tend to generate some sort of ambiguous narrative where nothing is ever resolved.

Daniel Turner

All images courtesy of Daniel Turner and Frankin Parrasch Gallery